What is SmartRubric?

If you're just coming across SmartRubric, and would like to know a little more about what it is and why I think it's a game changer for teacher workload and formative assessment, read on.


SmartRubric is a formative assessment app designed to ease teacher workload while at the same time improving the quality and usefulness of student progress data for schools.

I developed the initial prototype of SmartRubric while I was an English teacher in a secondary school in London. English teachers reading this will know -- my marking workload was very intense. My colleagues and I would spend hundreds of hours every year marking open-ended essays and projects; providing extensive detailed handwritten formative assessment feedback for our students. And rightly so! High quality formative feedback is an essential part of facilitating student learning.

But, the way we were (and most teachers are) marking is broken for two reasons:

  1. It is inefficient. Because we mark against a criteria; an assessment framework, a lot of the problems we identify across different pieces of student work are the same. That means we spend most of our time writing similar things over and over again.
  2. It is not permanent. It would be lovely to think that all of those helpful, focused comments are treasured by the student and pored over and learnt from, but we know that isn't the case. What really happens is they leave their book on the bus. Meanwhile, we take all of that rich progress data that we've just recorded in their exercise book or on their paper and digest it down into
    a
    single
    summative
    mark.
That single summative mark is what we record in our markbooks, reports or on our departmental trackers. This summative mark is now totally divorced from the student's underlying progress -- sure, we know that little Timmy got a C on his midterm mock, but we no longer have any concrete evidence about why. The connection between the student's actual profile of skills - such as the ability to use evidence to support claims, or the ability to effectively lead a group - and the grades the student attains is totally lost

Worse still, it's that very blunt instrument, the summative mark, that is used to make decisions about student futures. We decide who gets to apply to which university, who gets access to certain programs, who is flagged for additional intervention and who is written off.

As a teacher, this made me really angry. I was doing a lot of very hard, very skilled work - and it was important work! - but the impact it was having on student learning and my own teaching and decisions my school was making was nowhere near what it could be.

"What if," I thought to myself, "I could build a tool that would capture all of that rich progress data while I was marking -- so no extra admin or data entry -- and then use it to produce feedback sheets for students, meaningful data for teachers to use in their everyday practice, and high quality reports for schools?"

The result was SmartRubric. It's an end-to-end assessment system built from the ground up to meet the needs of real teachers, students and schools that can be used for any subject, at any level and in any school context.

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