Sunday, February 23, 2014

Assignment: Applying a Theory Rubric

Developing the Rubric:

I started this assignment with the Zoetewey chapter in mind. The two aspects of "usability" and "usefulness" can be productively adapted for theoretical applications. Can the application be "used" by the readers? Can it be "useful" for them?

I outlined how I see these two terms working in the context of theory application below with a clean copy of the rubric following. 

Usability:

Objectives: Is the application of this theory usable - clear and understandable? Could it be reapplied to another object/problem/question? Would another researcher arrive at a similar application?
  • Key terms are defined so reader has clarity.
  • Theory has been interpreted accurately. Application does not misuse theory or remove it from context in such a way that distorts the theoretical argument.
  • Theory is summarized for context.
  • Object/problem/question to which theory has been applied is explained for understanding.
  • Work applies at least three elements from the theory for triangulation.  

Usefulness:
Objectives: Is the application of this theory useful - relevant and significant? Does it have implications for the discipline? Does it reveal meaning or answers that can further research?
·         Application yields insights, observations, and/or answers about the object/problem/question being analyzed.
·         The conclusions drawn from the application are relevant or significant to the field in which the researcher is working.
·         The application suggests new questions or avenues for exploration in further research - possibly by discussing unused elements of theory, theory shortcomings/limitations/, or unresolved aspects of the object/problem/question.

Assessment Area:
Excellent
Acceptable
Under-developed
Not represented
Usability:




  • Key Terms




  • Accuracy




  • Theory Summary




  • Object Explained




  • Multiple Elements Used




Usefulness:




  • Yields insights




  • Relevance to field




  • Further research







Applying the Rubric:

Randomly selecting a Case Study from the list of blogs on our class page, I came to Chvonne's work with Snapchat.

Assessment Area:
Excellent
Acceptable
Under-developed
Not represented
Usability:




  • Key Terms
X - uses in-text definitions following the inclusion of key terms. Keeps the discussion flowing nicely while still giving information needed. 



  • Accuracy
X - demonstrates a very clear understanding of the concepts used



  • Theory Summary

X - perhaps could include more information about rhetorical situation beyond the three key concepts of audience, constraints, and exigence used.


  • Object Explained
X - very thorough and makes good use of links to Snapchat blog postings



  • Multiple Elements Used
X - exigence, audience, and constraints. Each is applied in more than one way as well.



Usefulness:




  • Yields insights
X - makes several observations about how Snapchat fundamentally differs as a social media platform and the nature of ephemeral action versus documented action.



  • Relevance to field
X - implications for multiple fields including networks and social media.



  • Further research
X - poses several intriguing questions that stem from the application that could be explored in additional thinking




So how did it work? Well, it works as a rubric for assessment, but rather subjectively. If I were a student trying to use this rubric for developing my work, I might be confused by a few points. First, there are more items in the "usability" category, which could lead to someone thinking that was weighted more heavily. Since there are no weights or points assigned to any of the categories, that might be difficult. In my mind, the usefulness categories would be most important, so perhaps revising this I would add percentages (maybe 40/60 top and bottom) to give some information for where work should be concentrated. It is still highly subjective though and I would not want to add a certain amount of points to each item because different theories could yield more or less in one area. I would want to use the rubric to gain an overall sense of usefulness and overall usability to determine a grade from that collective impression.

Second, there are no format criteria included on a rubric, so I can imagine that could be an issue. For example, it does not have an item for length or any required formatting like MLA citation or the inclusion of visuals. Surely an assignment would entail these items (or maybe I've been working with freshman too long), but a good rubric I think speaks to all aspects of an assignment. 

Lastly, the subjectivity could be problematic. For example, what is the difference between an "excellent" and "acceptable"? I think this would require some more explanation, but even still it comes down to interpreting qualities of creativity, thoughtfulness, insightfulness... These are not easily measured by rubric boxes, nor are they easily explained to a student. It comes down to an impression or feeling about whether some area of the rubric was present in the application and perhaps how it compared to other examples from the class. Students when presented with a rubric can often focus narrowly on the items and not realize the full potential of their thinking. It can be limiting at the same time it can be helpful for students to gain access to difficult work. I am not sure how I could remove some subjectivity or even if I would want to, but it is part of this rubric as it stands now.

Overall, I like the rubric and think it would be helpful for constructing and assessing the application of theory. 

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