Tag: Joseph Flynn

And the award goes to …

Congratulations to these members of the College of Education family!

Annie Malecki

Annie Malecki

Annie Malecki, a Physical Education major, was recognized as a SHAPE America Major of the Year with about 80 other students from Physical Education Teacher Education programs across the country.

She plans to teach physical education with an emphasis on wellness and whole body fitness. Her focus is on yoga, Pilates and dance.

During the SHAPE America national convention in Nashville, Malecki also was awarded the SHAPE America Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship.

The honor is given to a SHAPE member with a GPA of 3.5 to 4.0, scholastic proficiency, good leadership skills, professional service and good character. She receives a scholarship of $1,250 and a three year membership to SHAPE.

Malecki, a senior, will student-teach this fall. She already is a certified Zumba instructor.

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Kristina L. Wilkerson

Kristina L. Wilkerson

Kristina L. Wilkerson, a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program, has been named a Fellow of the National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program of the NBCC Foundation, an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

As an NBCC MFP Fellow, Wilkerson will receive funding and training to support her education and facilitate her service to underserved minority populations.

The fellowship also will assist her in becoming more involved in her research area through direct service, in receiving mentorship in her clinical and academic roles and in completing her doctorate degree. She is currently interested in researching the relationship between counselor education, supervision and multicultural counseling competency in novice counselors.

Wilerson is a Licensed Professional Counselor who provides individual and family counseling to diverse clientele. She also is an adjunct faculty member at National Louis University, where she provides counselor education in subjects such as counseling theory, counseling skills, psychological assessment and multicultural counseling.

She is also a graduate assistant in the NIU Office of the Ombudsperson, where one of her roles is to serve undergraduate and graduate students in developing skills to advocate for themselves when experiencing racial, gender or sexual orientation harassment or discrimination.

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Julie Hapeman

Julie Hapeman

Julie Hapeman, a graduate student in the Department of Special and Early Education’s Project VITALL master’s degree program, has received the 2018 Community Giving Award from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.

The council’s annual awards celebrate individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to promote the dignity and empowerment of people who are blind and visually impaired.

Hapeman was nominated by the council’s fund development committee for her dedication to community education and the empowerment of young people through the annual White Cane Day Celebration as well as her generous gifts to the White Cane Fund.

She also is a 1992 alumna of the NIU College of Education, holding a B.S.Ed. in Special Education with a Visual Impairments emphasis.

* * *

The NIU Graduate School honored recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Student Awards and the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowship during an April 24 reception.

Outstanding Graduate Student Awards

  • Michael Belbis – Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Elbia Del Llano – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Emmanuel C. Esperanza Jr. – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Kendra Nenia – Special and Early Education
  • Addison Pond – Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Brittany Torres – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Suzy Wise – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowship

  • Brigitte Bingham – Educational Technology, Research and Assessment
  • Shatoya Black – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Naina Richards – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Stephen Samuels – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Konya Sledge – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

* * *

Jason Dietz, Sherri Lamerand and Kim Haas

Jason Dietz, Sherri Lamerand and Kim Haas

Jason Dietz, principal of Walter R. Sundling Junior High School in Palatine, was named the 2018 Illinois PTA Outstanding Principal of the Year.

Dietz, pictured at left with Sherri Lamerand (Illinois PTA Volunteer of the Year) and Kim Haas (Illinois PTA Teacher of the Year), is a doctoral student in the Hoffman Estates cohort of the Ed.S./Superintendent Preparation Program.

The three all represent Community Consolidated School District 15, which serves all or part of seven northwest suburban communities.

Winners of Illinois PTA awards exhibit excellence in their ability to connect with students, families and their school communities. The awards were presented earlier this month at the 116th Illinois PTA convention, held at NIU-Naperville.

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Scott Wickman

Scott Wickman (right) celebrates his award with Martina Moore, president of the Association of Humanistic Counseling.

Several faculty and students from the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education traveled to the American Counseling Association conference in Atlanta.

Professor Scott Wickman was awarded the Humanistic Educator/Supervisor of the Year award. Chair Suzanne Degges-White received the AADA Presidential Service Award.

Counseling faculty and students delivered many presentations:

Adam Carter and Ashley S. Roberts (M.S. student in Counseling)

  • Using Grounded Theory to Understand Grief Experiences of Preschool Aged Children

Melissa Fickling

  • Work, Meaning and Purpose in Relapse Prevention: A Theoretical Integration
  • Leading the Way in Internationalization: Contributions of Professional Counseling Organizations
  • Telling Our Story: Integrating Humanism, Career and Social Justice

Kimberly Hart

  • Color Conscious Multicultural Mindfulness: A Meaningful Training Experience
  • Persons of African Descent Interpersonal Relationship and Community Violence

Dana Isawi

  • Culture and Discipline: Helping Parents Learn to Set Limits

Suzanne Degges-White

  • Publishing in Refereed Journals: Suggestions from the ACA Council of Editors
  • What do Women Want Today? Helping Women Clients Reach their Goals

* * *

coe-winners-2018

The upcoming retirement of Barb Andree was acknowleged during the Celebration of Excellence.

The upcoming retirement of Barb Andree,
office manager for the associate dean,
also was acknowledged by the deans
during the May 4 Celebration of Excellence.

Winners of the College of Education Awards were recognized May 4 during the Celebration of Excellence.

  • Excellence in Teaching Award by Faculty/Clinical Faculty: Stacy Kelly
  • Excellence in Research and Artistry Award by Faculty: Zach Wahl-Alexander
  • Excellence in Service Award by Faculty: Jesse “Woody” Johnson
  • Exceptional Contributions by Instructor: Carolyn Riley
  • Exceptional Contributions by Civil Service Staff: Pat Wielert
  • Exceptional Contributions by Supportive Professional Staff: Margee Myles
  • Outreach / Community Service Award: Jenn Jacobs
  • Exceptional Contributions in Diversity / Social Justice Award: Joseph Flynn (not pictured)


Faculty, student podcast probes portrayal of mental illness in film

Scott Wickman

Scott Wickman

People who love movies love to talk about movies.

Sometimes it’s the plot. Sometimes it’s the acting. Sometimes it’s the cinematography or the music or the special effects.

But for NIU’s Scott Wickman and his cohort of film buffs – colleagues, students, longtime friends – the topic of conversation explores how movies portray issues of mental health and its professional treatment.

Wickman, an associate professor of Counseling in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, is the co-creator of the “Mental Illness in Pop Culture” podcast, available for free through iTunes and heard around the world.

Now in its third season, the podcast currently features 22 episodes that dissect feature films, documentaries and even classic Saturday morning cartoons in the belief “that public perception is both reflected and influenced by popular media.”

“Even though this is really fun to do, there’s an educational component to this,” Wickman says. “Listeners just feel like they’re sitting in the room with us, engaging in the conversation. We’re like the Siskel and Ebert of Counselor Education. It’s become an international phenomenon.”

Two of his frequent collaborators – Adam Gregory, an NIU Ph.D. candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision; and Leanne Deister-Goodwin, a consultant, group facilitator and public speaker on leadership and management who is also pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – bring different perspectives.

podcast-logo

Gregory, a seasoned cinephile, previously was a member of the Cleveland International Film Festival for five years. He also once drove from Cleveland to Detroit simply to watch “Brokeback Mountain” before the Oscars.

“I watch maybe five or six movies a week. It’s my self-care,” Gregory says. “This has never felt like work.”

Deister-Goodwin, on the other hand, calls herself “just a consumer” of movies. She became a fan of the podcast at the urging of Wickman, who had been her high school Spanish teacher in downstate Robinson.

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction with an interest in pop culture, media and critical race theory, has joined the panel for Season Three.

Recordings are made in Wickman’s Graham Hall office on his Samsung phone. There are no rehearsals or preparation beyond watching the movies in advance; the conversations are unscripted and free-flowing with no set time limit.

Films discussed so far include classics such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Ordinary People” and “Harold and Maude” as well as contemporary works such as “Moonlight,” “Manchester By the Sea” and “Inside Out.”

Others include “Good Will Hunting,” “Girl, Interrupted,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

A December 2017 episode on “Looney Tunes” analyzed Pepé Le Pew’s predator tendencies, looked at gender identity issues concerning Bugs Bunny and mused that Wile E. Coyote has a schizoaffective disorder, positing that the roadrunner existed only in his mind: “It’s a compelling argument!” Wickman says.

Honesty and courage are key to the podcast’s authenticity. The panel members are candid when their life stories offer parallels to the characters and plots they are analyzing.

manchester-by-the-sea“Manchester By the Sea,” for example, is a 2016 film about a man’s struggle with unbearable grief. The recording of that podcast came only two or three days after Wickman lost two close friends; part of the discussion prompted Gregory to tell a story of when he answered his father’s cell phone one day after his father died.

Panelists wondered why no character in the movie suggested that the man, played by Casey Affleck, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal, seek professional help. They discussed themes of the movie – abandonment, forgiveness, suffering is universal – and hoped that healing came for the characters after the movie’s non-Hollywood ending.

During their recording session one week later on “The Soloist,” which stars Robert Downey Jr. as a print journalist who encounters Jamie Foxx, whose character is a homeless musical genius, it was Deister-Goodwin’s turn to share something personal – and to grasp again the power of the podcast.

“There’s so much of us in this thing. Being real, true and authentic is always our goal, and we try to bring that,” she says. “When I was young, I had some years of my adolescence when I lived in a van.”

Wickman believes that such revelations boost the podcast’s impact, along with the mix of professionals and students and the “split-level talking” theory of chatting with each other while simultaneously addressing a much larger audience.

Leanne Deister-Goodwin

Leanne Deister-Goodwin

Using film as the foundation helps as well. “We all watch movies. We just do,” Deister-Goodwin says, “and you can enjoy the podcast even if you haven’t seen the movies or know about counseling.”

Members of the panel, who clearly have become tight friends, also hold each other in high regard.

“Scott always makes sure that everyone’s voice is important and heard,” Deister-Goodwin says. “When you’re in an environment where you’re valued, and you’re heard, you want to give more. You really do.”

It originated with a course Wickman offered under the same name – Mental Illness in Pop Culture – that didn’t attract enough students to make it viable. Those who had signed up, however, still were interested and asked if it could become an independent study.

Ph.D. student Gregory was there, too, and had been ready and willing to co-teach with Wickman.

When the two met at Starbucks to brainstorm ideas of how to salvage the concept, they hit upon the idea of the podcast – something that now has reached ears on every continent except Antarctica.

Adam Gregory

Adam Gregory

NIU’s podcasters, meanwhile, have presented at a Chicago conference of the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision; they’ve also been told that faculty at other colleges and universities have required the podcast as part of academic courses or have awarded extra credit for listening.

“It’s just an amazing adrenaline rush. I sit back and watch us go from 200 to 300 listens over a 48-hour period,” Wickman says. “It’s why I got into counselor education – to contribute knowledge and dialogue on these topics.”

Upcoming films will include “Still Alice,” “Room” and “Nebraska,” and Wickman is hoping that the podcast can also expand its scope.

“These are really compelling films, and we’re looking at them through a critical lens that helps certain elements pop out,” he says. “We all have ideas. We talk about what we’ve seen, what’s resonated with us. I have a dream that this moves us into other pop culture – songs, books, TV.”



Social Justice Summer Camp offers educators ideas to reach students in ‘a different way’

sjsc-5Long lines in the lunchroom. Climbing the gymnasium rope. Nagging parents. The quadratic formula.

Anxieties like these are the stuff of high school.

For LGBTQ teens, though, they take a backseat to the issues of sexual orientation.

Changing clothes not in a locker room but in a nurse’s office on the other side of the building, a welcome accommodation that also comes with isolation. Never knowing whom to trust with their feelings. Bullying not just from classmates but also from fathers who threaten disownment and siblings who heartlessly mock them and their friends.

Such overwhelming concerns can impede learning; require understanding and sensitivity from teachers, most of whom probably can’t relate. Students from diverse ethnic and racial populations, also confronted by generations of oppression, equally yearn for that kind of support. Again, it’s often in vain.

But K-12 teachers and other educators from DeKalb and Elgin who attended June’s inaugural Social Justice Summer Camp at the NIU College of Education will return to their classrooms and schools this fall with eyes wide open to students from diverse and historically marginalized backgrounds.

That progress starts with the recognition that educational disparities exist although they likely are invisible to those not impacted.

sjsc-3

Campers talk after a LGBTQ panel discussion.

Joseph Flynn, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and one of the camp’s organizers, said the participants had “a wonderful time, intellectually and socially.”

“People left on a high note, invigorated to get back to their schools and districts and to get to work. Some were talking about addressing the climate within their schools. Some were looking at specific policies as well as the practices and curriculum in general,” Flynn said.

“Overall, the comments we had from campers were largely positive,” he added. “That doesn’t mean that some folks didn’t struggle with some of the issues, and we anticipated that. Learning about issues of oppression in all forms can be challenging because it’s speaking against the status quo.”

NIU’s camp, organized by Flynn and colleagues James Cohen and Mike Manderino, the three-day camp featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, film screenings, experiential activities, reflective conversations and the development of social justice action plans for schools.

Themes of the days included “Building from the Beginning: Understanding Multicultural and Social Justice Education Historically and Currently,” “Pieces of a Whole: Recognizing the Relationships among Systems, the Collective and the Individual” and “Now What? Considerations on the Practice of Social Justice Education.”

Mike Manderino

Mike Manderino

History lessons of how various forms of oppression emerged, along with the thought-provoking content of the films, spawned many side discussions.

“The film series was especially powerful,” Flynn said. “We would finish a film, and an hour of conversation would go by – and we still weren’t done talking.”

During a June 13 panel discussion featuring three DeKalb High School students who are LGBTQ, however, the language was plain and the message clear.

“We’re just trying to make it through, like the rest of you,” one teenager said to the audience. “School should not be a place you fear or dislike.”

Members of the audience, meanwhile, were able to walk in someone else’s shoes.

The three students spoke of bullying in the hallways, observing that teachers often “won’t step in until it gets physical and someone gets hurt.” They talked of academic lessons illustrated only with “white, hetero families” and history curriculum that ignores the contributions of LGBTQ individuals. They discussed sexual education that covers sex and abstinence but not asexuality.

They expressed hurt over hearing the attendance called with their birth names and of being addressed by the wrong pronouns – situations that are not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous if the teachers inadvertently “out” students.

Yet they also smiled camaraderie available through school, especially when groups such DeKalb High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance are active. Meeting other LBGTQ students means “I’m not broken,” one said. “There is nothing wrong or strange about this, and I don’t have to be ashamed. This is something other people have experienced. I’m not alone.”

sjsc-1

James Cohen (left) was one of the camp’s organizers.

Educators in the room stood and applauded.

“I’m in awe of your courage,” one told the panel. “Thank you for being who you are.”

The teens also provided advice for the teachers who might have LGBTQ students – or parents – in their classrooms.

  • “Normalize your curriculum.”
  • “Give students someone to talk to. Let your students know you are available and open to them. If a student comes to you and tells you about their parents not accepting them, be there for them.”
  • “Respect every one for who they are – or who they want to be.”

Andria Mitchell, principal of DeKalb’s Tyler Elementary School, came to the Social Justice Summer Camp to reinforce the work of District 428’s diversity planning.

“This has been an amazing experience,” Mitchell said.

“It has been liberating and emotionally draining. It’s been an eye-opener with big moments of aha. I even had to catch myself a couple times, and say, ‘Oh! I have that bias,’ or, ‘I’ve never thought of it that way.’ ”

Mitchell believes teachers must respect diversity with the same level of importance they assign to knowledge and content.

“When you’re able to have this social justice lens, along with the latest knowledge, you reach your students in a different way,” she said, “and you reach all of your students.”

Jackie Jagielski, a sixth-grade gifted program teacher at Glenbrook Elementary School in U-46, wants to ensure that all children are provided with “opportunities to use their voices” and safe spaces.

sjsc-4

Campers came from the DeKalb and Elgin school districts.

NIU’s camp offered “concrete ways” to do just that, she said.

“I’ve always had an interest in social justice issues, particularly now in the political climate we find ourselves in. It’s harder for people to find common ground,” Jagielski said. “We need to celebrate and humanize all of our students, regardless of their backgrounds and in all the ways that they can be diverse.”

Roy Kim, a social worker in District 428, appreciated the camp’s “wealth of historical context” and “hearing the experiences of the other attendees.”

“Social justice is half of my job description,” he said. “Nothing could be more relevant for me in doing my job effectively.”

Ana Arroyo is principal of Elgin’s Parkwood Elementary School, a Title I school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most are Hispanic.

She attended NIU’s camp to help her teachers advance their “understanding of where our children are coming from,” something already in progress. Parkwood, nominated for PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) “Gold” recognition, is one of the Top 5 safest schools in U-46.

“I’m planning to deliver professional development to my staff on teaching to our population. It’s about listening to students, and giving students a platform to speak, share and engage in their learning,” Arroyo said. “If we can impact change at such an early level, that’s going to continue through middle school and high school.”



K-12 teachers to explore equity at Social Justice Summer Camp

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn

Question: Can K-12 teachers without a deep understanding of social justice concerns effectively engage and enlighten their students on those topics?

Joseph Flynn, James Cohen and Mike Manderino would say “no.”

But the three professors from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction are ready to start equipping teachers to tackle those tough conversations from a well-rounded perspective of the issues.

Nearly 60 teachers and other school professionals will arrive June 11 at NIU for the inaugural Social Justice Summer Camp for Educators, a four-day, three-night, candid and nonjudgmental exploration of multiculturalism, privilege, identity, oppression and more.

“Practicing K-12 teachers and administrators typically have the best of intentions, but it is important for them to also have experiences that can help further their understanding of various forms of oppression and social justice in general,” says Flynn, who first proposed the summer camp.

“Regardless of what people might have to say, or whatever political stripe they may be, social justice issues are actually happening to people,” Flynn adds.

“And if we really believe in social justice and equity, it becomes imperative for students to actually engage in these issues. Offering students opportunities to explore problems helps them with critical thinking and helps them understand their world.”

James Cohen and Mike Manderino

James Cohen and Mike Manderino

Manderino and Cohen are excited to join in Flynn’s vision.

“Schools are a microcosm of society. They’re not this separate place where the world doesn’t exist anymore,” Manderino says. “And whether it’s racism, sexism, discrimination against one’s gender identity, sexual preference or religious background – these are systemic issues. Schools, and the school system itself, really have to confront the fact that these issues are present.”

“In an age of emboldened racism, and emboldened discrimination in our society, we have to be equally emboldened to fight back all of this racism, discrimination and injustice,” Cohen adds. “What better way to spread that message of social justice than to work with teachers?”

The camp, which will take place in New Residence Hall, will feature keynote speakers JQ Adams and Stacey Horn, panel discussions, film screenings and, most importantly, long and pointed conversations followed by opportunities for reflection.

Discussions will probe the historic development of multicultural and social justice education and key ideas; the nature of privilege across identities and how privilege impacts policy and practice in schools; and the ways in which school policies foster inequity and how to reform such policies.

“We have a whole range of issues that these schools can think about,” Manderino says. “Some schools might be struggling with equity gaps in suspension rates, or in who gets access to some classes. It could be writing more gender-inclusive policies, or providing safe spaces.”

sjsc-logoKey to those talks is coming up with a definition of oppression, Flynn adds.

“Oppression happens when prejudice against a group is backed by historical, social and institutional power. It’s much more than feeling mistreated,” he says.

“Affirmative action is not a form of oppression against white males, for example, as compared to the ways the LGBT+ community has been marginalized for decades, let alone centuries, in American culture,” he says. “When you have a series of laws that are consistently passed that have a negative impact on your community – even if that’s not intentional – then those are markers of oppression.”

Films on the summer camp’s evening schedule include the powerful documentaries “Color of Fear,” “Cracking the Codes” and “Precious Knowledge.”

Campers will set goals for their schools and, before they leave June 14, explain how they will begin making a difference for students in the fall.

cracking-the-codes“One of the six goals of multicultural education is to act on your knowledge,” Cohen says. “They will create action plans for how to advocate for linguistically and culturally marginalized students in their respective schools.”

Teachers who attend will learn to reduce their reticence toward taking on this challenge.

“I’ve met a lot of teachers who feel like, ‘Yeah, what the Black Lives Matter movement is saying against police brutality is really important, but I don’t know enough to say anything about it,’ ” Flynn says.

“We can help them become more comfortable with, one, approaching the subjects in general; two, how to engage their students in discussions; and, three, and perhaps most importantly, in admitting that they don’t know everything, and that’s OK,” he adds. “It’s OK to say, ‘You know, I don’t know. Why don’t we figure that out together?’ ”

Flynn’s journey of turning social justice issues into teaching tools began in 2000, the year he began teaching in higher education.

His first course covered human diversity, power and opportunity in social institutions, a focus that prompted him to become more conscious and thoughtful of how various groups are positioned in society.

“I do believe that the United States, if it really believes what it professes in our founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence, that it’s incumbent on us when we can to help people understand how various forms of oppression work,” Flynn says.

“I believe that doing everything we can to make life better for all people is incumbent on us as citizens. We as a society cannot just keep saying that it’s terrible that these things happen if we’re not going to further educate ourselves and create spaces for kids to talk about these things.”

JQ Adams and Stacey Horn

JQ Adams and Stacey Horn

The professors are eager to welcome the campers, lead and participate in their conversations and, ultimately, see positive results begin to blossom.

Campers should regard the event not as “come and learn everything in a few days” but as the catalysts for expanding their mindsets, they say.

“Public education, and education in general, has the promise and potential to provide opportunities for people to pursue their passions and their interests. It gives people choice and agency over their lives, and it has the potential to broaden the perspectives of students much earlier in their lives,” Manderino says.

“But as participants in a societal institution, we as educators must become mindful of these issues. Then I think we can start to grow people’s participation in our democracy because it becomes more inclusive.”

For Cohen, the answer lies in rising above the notion that “there’s no such thing as white rule.”

“When teachers understand how white privilege plays a role in their teaching, how misogyny plays a role in their teaching, how linguistic privilege plays a role in their teaching – if they can gain that awareness, they will be teaching students multiple historical perspectives,” he says.

“Students will be much more aware of the realities of people who don’t think and look and act like them,” he adds, “and that’s what this really comes down to.”



New book examines impact of rubrics on education

Joseph Flynn

Joseph Flynn

The College of Education’s Joseph Flynn, associate professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF), has a new book out which he co-edited with his colleague Michelle Tenam-Zemach, a professor at Nova Southeastern University’s Abraham Fischler School of Education in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Their book, “Rubric Nation: Critical Inquiries on the Impact of Rubrics in Education,” examines the impact rubrics* have on professionals and students across the educational spectrum as well as on modern society and culture.

The idea for the book came up a few years ago at an American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (AATC) conference when Flynn and Tenam-Zemach were talking about how ubiquitous rubrics have become.

“Reflecting on our own teacher preparation experience, Michelle and I realized that we did not use rubrics in college, so the question became when did rubrics start appearing everywhere in teacher education?” Flynn recalled.

“Rubrics are not good or bad in and of themselves,” he said. “On one hand effectively designed rubrics can be very useful for educators in structuring assignments and conveying expectations; yet on the other hand rubrics can also have unintended consequences. For example, rubrics can ultimately minimize students’ willingness to take risks in their learning because they become so focused on what they need to do to get an A.”

Flynn added that their research also found that students using rubrics might be less willing to engage in productive conversations with peers or teachers about their assignments.

Rubrics have also become an issue for practicing teachers as well, according to Flynn. “The use of rubrics in high stakes teacher assessment is also seeing some problems,” he said. “Many states and districts are adopting rubrics for assessing teachers, but they are using them improperly. Rubrics like the Charlotte Danielson rubric were designed to encourage discussions between teachers and administrators, not evaluations that could cause a teacher to lose her job.” These trends encouraged Flynn and Tenam-Zemach to seek out research and scholarship critically examining rubrics.

Flynn said the conversations he had at AATC were key in the development of the manuscript, and — because rubrics are used for almost everything in education from high-stakes testing to tenure promotion and teacher evaluations — he hopes that more research will be done on rubrics in the future.

“We think it is really important that more research is dedicated to critically examining rubrics. Rubrics may have noble intentions, but that does not necessarily mean that they do not have negative consequences.”

* A rubric is a tool used by teachers to define how a particular assignment or activity will be graded; rubrics describe, in writing, not only what a student needs to include in the assignment, it also describes the quality of each of the inputs. If one of the criteria for grading an essay is spelling, for example, then the rubric might state that to receive an “Excellent” the essay must contain no spelling errors; to receive a “Good” it can contain up to two spelling errors. Three or more misspelled words would result in a “Needs Improvement” in the spelling criteria.