A Complete Lectio, V

salvēte iterum, amīcī et sodālēs! As promised, today we’ll look at a possible rubric for scoring the participant-created writing.  Next time,we’ll also consider possible Continuing Virtual Seminar topics. And then I’ll have a hugely important question about Verbs! We’ll probably take a look at some stories from Lectiōnēs Tertia et Quārta later this week, as well.

If you’re just joining us, I’d like to remind you (or possibly even tell you for the first time) that the official Tres Columnae website is now up and running at http://www.trescolumnae.com/wiki/tiki-index.php if you’d like to see “the whole thing” – or at least an early version of the whole thing! You can register for a free subscription there, if you’d like, or you can explore the site without registering if you’d prefer.

By registering, though, you do get the opportunity to create your own, internal Tres Columnae blog – or several blogs, if you’d like – where you can comment on the stories and other aspects of the project. You can also make comments on individual wiki pages if you’re a subscriber. In a few weeks, when we have some multimedia content ready, we’ll also be offering the opportunity to become a basic or standard subscriber if you’re interested.

  • Basic subscriptions will cost about $10 per year, and will give you the ability to take the interactive quizzes and record your scores.
  • Standard subscriptions will have a monthly cost (we’re still working out the details, but we’ll let you know as soon as we know!) and will give you the ability to create and upload your own stories, images, audio, and video. We hate to have to charge people for this! But, unfortunately, someone will need to screen our user-created content. We have to make sure that
    • It’s not from a spammer who’s cleverly included an ad for … whatever! … in a story, an image, an audio file, or a video;
    • The Latin is grammatically correct and idiomatic;
    • The participant has made provisions for “new stuff” (vocabulary or grammatical forms) that participants wouldn’t have learned by the Lectiō for which their creation is designed; and
    • The storyline is “appropriate” – not too racy or terrifying for our school-aged participants, for example.

(If we get a lot of adult learners who want to explore “adult” stuff, I’m not sure how to handle that. quid mihi suādētis, amīcī? I’d thought about just telling them “no,” especially for “stuff” with what’s euphemistically called “mature content” by some people. But there might possibly be some “stuff” that adult learners could handle, but which would disturb younger learners. For example, when our characters are stationed in Germania and Iudaea during Cursus Secundus, they might witness something that wouldn’t bother an adult, but would give a 14-year-old nightmares. How should we handle those issues?)

Anyway, when participants do submit content, we’ll ask them to do a self-rating, using the same scale that “we” (OK, “I” – but as the project grows, “I” will presumably become “we” over time) will use to rate their content. In my face-to-face teaching life, I’ve discovered that self-rating has an amazingly positive effect on the quality of students’ work, especially when they know the criteria in advance. I’m sure I had “known” this as a beginning teacher, but I actually learned it (or at least owned my learning) when I first began to work with the College Board’s Advanced Placement program.

Though Latin teachers may well disagree about the aims of the AP ® Latin program, one great thing that the College Board does – and has consistently done for over 30 years – is to publish the free-response section of every AP ® Latin Examination, along with the scoring system and even some sample student responses.  For many years, these reports were published by the Chief Reader in a journal like Classical Outlook or Classical World, but in recent years they’ve also been available on the College Board’s website. As a result, any AP ® teacher – or student – can see actual questions, actual answers, and actual rubrics. So, for more than 15 years, my AP ® students have followed a process where

  • They receive a sample prompt, with or without the rubric;
  • They talk about how they might respond to the prompt;
  • They actually write a response (or, sometimes, just outline what they’d say and how they’d support their argument);
  • They rate their response against the rubric;
  • They read and rate sample responses;
  • They compare their ratings with the “official” ratings; and
  • They discuss what they might need to do to improve – or, more often, how surprised they are by the “low” quality of responses that got high marks. (I teach a lot of perfectionists, and they tend to forget how little time is available for AP ® students to write their responses.)

Inspired by the success of this process, I gradually “worked down” self-assessment, first to my Latin III students, and then quickly to my II’s and I’s as well. In each case, I found that as the criteria were made clear, and as students knew they’d be rating their own work (and sometimes each other’s work too), the quality increased exponentially. So, having seen the process work face-to-face, I’m confident that it will also work in the Tres Columnae environment.

Here’s my preliminary thought about the rubric we’ll use for text submissions (obviously we’ll need appropriate ones for audio, for video, for illustrations, for collections of links, and for exercises/quizzes as well). If you’re not familiar with the language of rubrics, they’re usually classified as either analytic (if there are multiple criteria on which the product is rated) or holistic (if there’s a single, global rating). For video and illustrations, I expect a holistic rubric would work best, but for text, we probably want to assess multiple factors. So I envision something like this:

Acceptable Not Yet Acceptable
Morphology and Syntax Errors, if any, are typographical and require minimal editing. Constructions are familiar to the learner. No new / unfamiliar forms are used or, if they are, they’re clear from context. Errors of morphology and syntax are present. More than typographical correction is needed. New/unfamiliar forms are used without clarification, or forms are used incorrectly.
Vocabulary All important words are previously learned (on the master vocabulary list) or clear from context/derivatives. Words are used correctly and idiomatically, or there are only minor errors, easily corrected. New words are included without attention to vocabulary development. There may be evidence of “random dictionary diving.” Some words are used incorrectly or in unidiomatic ways; errors require more than minimal editing to correct.
Storyline Characters’ behavior and motivation is consistent with previous stories. Setting, tone, and other features “make sense” with what has gone before. Characters’ behavior and motivation is inconsistent with previous stories, or with “what a Roman would do” (for Roman characters). Setting, tone, and/or other features “don’t make sense” with what has gone before.

I originally had an additional column called “More than Acceptable,” but it didn’t want to display correctly! 🙂  And the more I think about it, the more I like this very simple rubric.  Factory model schools tend to breed an invidious perfectionism in learners: you strive for that “A” in everything, even if your work is already extremely good.  I think of my former student who burst into tears because she’d received a 108% score on a test … she wanted a 110! 😦

Since we’re not attempting to grade Tres Columnae participants, we don’t need a precision instrument for assessing the work! Either it’s really good, quite good, or … not good enough yet. And if it’s not good enough yet, we’ll work with you, the participant, until it is good enough! We’ll give you detailed feedback, if you’d like, or suggest particular pieces of Lectiōnēs, or send you to particular outside resources. Or, if you’d prefer, we’ll make your work available as a CORRIGENDVM – a story with promise, but some problems, that others can edit and improve if they’d like to.

quid putātis, amīcī?

  • How do you feel about “imprecise” assessment like this? Are you crying out for a 5- or 6-point rubric? And if so, is it because you like the A-through-F implications of such a measure?
  • Do you think a learner would find this rubric helpful? Or should we be more specific in each Lectiō? For example, in Lectiō Secunda, might it make sense to say “the only forms used are nominative singular nouns, genitive singular nouns, and familiar verbs and prepositional phrases?”
  • What do you think of our process for “not acceptable yet” work? Do you find it encouraging or discouraging?
  • And what about the idea of a CORRIGENDVM?

Tune in next time, when we’ll look at some of your answers to these questions and explore Continuing Virtual Seminar prompts that might relate to Lectio Secunda. Then, after that, we’ll ask a Big Question about the introduction of Verbs. In the meantime, thanks again for reading, and please keep those comments and emails coming.


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