Performing the rubric

After an unhappy situation in one of my acting classes, I realized that I needed to develop a rubric for “Participation” — this sort of grey, amorphous category of grading that was often the determining factor in my students’ grades and which anyone in the arts – or any profession, really – can tell you is crucial to survival in the industry. Do we want to work with you again? It’s that simple.

After girding my loins and developing the rubric, I decided to have some fun with my Acting I students and do a little exercise in which I assigned them grade identities from the rubric. (I just made copies of the rubric and cut it up, i.e. “Here’s the A student, the A-, the B+, etc.). The rubric describes the behavior of each grade, and I figured they were actors after all – they could act like they were getting that grade. We then do an exercise that’s becoming familiar to them from class AS IF they were that participation grade. It’s fun – and also a little terrifying. I never give the A students the A roles to play, and I try to give the slacker students more high- achieving grades to see what happens. The exercise always generates things that surprise me. The students are uncannily good at nailing the toxicity of the B+ student to the health of an ensemble, by the way. This past semester a student actually said to me, “Thank you for doing this. Now I know what your expectations are.” Sigh – I guess rubrics are useful after all.

On November 12, 2019 Muhlenberg colleagues gathered to share their teaching hacks. Teaching hacks are relatively simple strategies that we might use to improve student learning or reduce our workload. These strategies might free up additional class time, increase the efficiency of our practices, or better support our ability to work on scholarship or service.

Holly Cate
Associate Professor Acting

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