Using Rubrics for Personal Growth in A&S

By: Agnes Marie de Calais

When I started in the SCA I was a fencer. I loved the thrill of the fight, training, sore muscles and how it felt to take the field. However, after I aged in ways that made this activity not medically an option, I didn’t know where to go or where I fit in the SCA. Some life events happened at around the same time, and took a break for a bit to take care of family and health concerns. Time passed and eventually, I came back to a regular level of SCA activity.

When I returned, I want to know where I fit if I could not fight or engage in martial activities. Better understanding Art & Science became a personal journey for me and helped me to find my passion. I tried many things and found that it was writing, research and sharing knowledge with others that was my A&S path. I had not previously known this was a possibility. I remember early on wanting to know if I was “doing A&S right.” When I fenced and I lost a bout, I could easily go over my form, talk to my opponent and see what needed to improve. The path to growth and improvement was not as clear in the Arts & Sciences.

Seeking to improve, and being a former fencer, I turned to the most obvious way that I knew to determine progress, growth, and prowess- a competition. At the competition, I asked for feedback and left a blank book for people to write in. I will admit that some of the written feedback was not positive or constructive. However, in other ways, it was inspiring because of the tokens I received. So, still wanting to improve, I used my fighter brain and went and trained harder by working on my paper some more. I used the constructive advice I was given, and I wrote a better paper, but, I still didn’t “win.” 

Confused, frustrated and still trying to figure out what was wanted, I went to an Art & Science Consultation table. I brought my work and my fraying patience and calmly asked “what am I missing?” That was the moment my focus on what being an Art & Science community member was for me changed. The consultant explained that just doing my art was a win, sharing it was a win, and that if competing was not helping my art thrive that I did not have to do so to progress on the Arts & Sciences path. However, she said that if I wanted to continue to compete, that reviewing the kingdom rubric could help me to fairly evaluate and critique my own work and measure my personal progress

I use rubrics daily as an educator, not just to evaluate my students but help them think about what they want to express in their own work. To me they are used as a personal metric to help set goals and measure growth. Yes, I use rubrics on myself. The Kingdom rubrics were daunting at first. I had concerns, questions and doubts about the ability of my work to live up to a “good” score. I shared these concerns with others honestly and even took training to understand the rubric better. I also engaged in shadow judging to see it in action. The rubric allowed very different types of Art & Sciences projects, all entered into a designated and chosen high stakes competition, to have a single metric that addressed their art (calligraphy, weaving, metalwork etc.), but within a scoring system that would allow for the comparison of numerical scores in an effort to be more equitable.  For me, it helped me sent personal benchmarks, think analytically and critically about what I had done and think of ways I could improve my work further. If anything it became less of a competitive tool and more of a personal one.

A rubric is a tool to evaluate oneself or, with consent and caring, to evaluate the work of others. Like with all tools practice is imperative, and like with all the tools, the one wielding the tool may use it in a way that it was not meant to be used. However, it is a tool we can choose to not use. We are free to create and share our art in the forums we chose. Some may find rubrics helpful outside of competition as a way to expand and grow their work.  For others, they provide a common language to be able to reference when giving compassionate and helpful feedback. And yes, they help decide Arts and Sciences tournaments or competitions. In either case, it can be used to help growth when an artisan chooses to do so. In short, while competition is indeed a familiar use of a rubric, it can be used in other positive non-competitive ways.

Lady Agnes lives in the Shire of Quintavia and enjoys various A&S pursuits, such as researching and writing about Medici and renaissance porcelain as well as performing Bardic Arts.  Ask her about researching and she will excitedly tell you why it can be fun! Mundanely Agnes has been a middle school educator for over thirteen years in the public school system.

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