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Making the case for rubrics!


Rubrics frame measurable goals

Last month, I talked about the importance of using strength-based frameworks as we explore student conversations. With the end of the school year in our sights, many of us are in the process of re-assessments, 3-year reviews, and IEPs. Ok, it actually is “IEP season” all year long, but let’s take a pause in our hectic days to think about…rubrics and goals. As Tony Robbins, author, business strategist and motivational speaker reminds us, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”


Keep in mind that it’s very important to include student strengths when we talk about “current levels of performance” on our way to writing goals. These will guide future work, since starting from a strength always works best when trying to move forward. There was more about this in my last blog


So how do we turn invisible aspirations into visible, realistic, and measurable goals for our students? And how do we incorporate a strength-based framework in that process? As we write more and more goals about social cognitive processes and knowledge, we are finding that an 80%-based goal just doesn’t work like it did for articulation or past tense. That form of measure just isn't appropriate for complicated social behavior. You can’t say “hi,” or demonstrate perspective taking 80% of the time!


We are also entering a refreshing era prioritizing self-determination and self-advocacy in our students. A time when we are questioning, challenging, and revising our past ideas about writing goals that actually often resulted in our students practicing skills that led to masking and feelings of “less-than” – in fact, increasing their anxiety and depression. The process of writing goals around pragmatics and social behavior has only become more complex and complicated!


Enter rubrics. A way to describe and measure growth in those complex skills with which we work. A way to collaborate with students, families, and teachers to construct individualized goals that, even when they are passed off to another clinician, are clear and understandable.


Rubrics have a number of “parts” that are often easier to make using an Excel rather than a Word document. It’s helpful to have the columns, to color code information, and box different sections. And once you get used to it, you can even make spiffy graphs to show progress!


Rubrics always include definitions (what exactly are we working on), the goal itself with its relevant state standard, a scale with which to measure progress (this is taking the place of that rigid 80% marker of success), and a record of progress over time. That’s it! When I put CPPEV together, I developed 4 rubrics. You can check them out by watching the tutorial videos labeled “rubrics.”


Are you and your colleagues starting to think about using rubrics? Or have you been using them for a while now, and feel you are getting the hang of them? Do you have questions or can you share some special tips that have worked for you? Drop me a quick email and I’m happy to share your info!





“I am working with a student who uses too many comments – no matter what someone says to her, she immediately turns whatever they are talking about to herself – the other person feels not listened to. How do I help her understand that she is hijacking the conversation, and that it would be better if she asked her partner for more details about their experience? – Lorraine, SLP”


I think we have all had students like this in our caseloads, so, Lorraine, you are not alone with this challenge! I would suggest working with this student on pop-ins, my student-friendly name for interjections. Pop-ins (like “cool”, “great”, “oh no”, etc.) reflect our understanding of the emotion behind what the person is telling us. Are they feeling good, or not so good? These short and simple words, that we literally “pop” in, interjections might be a good frame for your student to explore. When she practices having her conversational turn consist of only a pop-in, she will be focusing more on what her partner has told her, rather than moving into talking about herself.


Using correct pop-ins can be tricky for students with language and social learning differences, and that’s why they are one of the important conversational frames in CPPEV. If you say “I had broccoli last night” with a positive affect, but I don’t like broccoli, I might say “yuck!” While that reflects how I feel about broccoli, using that pop-in may confuse my conversational partner! I often work with students giving sentences with contrasting emotion either a “thumbs up,” for positive affect, or a “thumbs down” for negative affect. Then we can introduce choices of pop-ins to practice. Whether you call them interjections or pop-ins, these small words have a large impact, and are a great way to connect and communicate that we are understanding – not just the words, but also the emotional content.

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