Professors’ syllabi might be holding students back

Across nearly every major project, homework assignments and papers are judged on a rubric created by the professor that fits the guidelines of what the university expects. This rubric provides a means for not only the professor to grade their students but a way for students to understand their grades. However, this structure creates a lack of creativity.

When students are forced to follow a rubric, it creates a highly generic expectation of what to turn in. If you want to get a good grade, you look at what an A looks like on the rubric and you follow that style. It leaves no room for the creative mind to go about completing the project in a different way that still gets the point across.

If we look at essays as an example, you are often given a topic or two that you can write about. Depending on your class, you are given a particular format and that is what you have to go with. If you differ from the rubric, you have docked points and your grades suffer.

Therefore, we create a system where we punish students for thinking outside the box. This does not prepare our students for their future life in the career field where it might be creativity that sets them apart from others. A well-written paper no longer sets you apart from anyone else because anyone can write a paper in MLA or APA.

Not only are students denied creativity, but it seems to create a hatred for projects, homework and essays. Yes, assignments are never the highlight of your day. However, imagine not having to create a generic PowerPoint using one of the ten themes provided but instead creating a video or podcast that gets the same point across.

There are of course problems with this. How do we grade students if we throw out the rubric that is the basis for how students are graded? One solution is instead of giving a student a percentage, give them a pass, pass plus or pass minus.

At the end of the semester, this would be equated to a grade. If a student did every assignment and received a pass plus on their projects, papers and so forth, then they would get an A. Students who forgot a few assignments or struggled and just got passes on projects might get a B and so on. There are some classes on campus that already use this form of grading.

With this form of grading, it allows students to explore who they are and what works best for them. Instead of denying students the creativity of creating a video, we just apply a few rules to how the video would work on such a topic or length. Not every student is going to excel at the assigned projects and essays.

When we provide students the option of creativity and creating their own style, we give them the ability to explore what they are good at. This is the primary role of college: deciding who we are and what we want to do for the rest of our lives. Rubrics should not keep us confined to a particular way of going about things.