Erin Keefe

One (More) Reason to Use Outcomes

Blog Post created by Erin Keefe Employee on Dec 19, 2019

Recently I've had the pleasure of working with the good folks at addalingua in their journey to use Canvas to help fulfill their mission: inspire global empathy through education in two languages. As I was showing them some Canvas Rubrics I'd built for their partner teachers to use to evaluate students, they stopped me. "We need to change that," they said. The thing that needed changing? The thing I didn't ever notice in all of my time working in Canvas with the countless number of institutions and teachers in my role at Instructure? The colors. 


You see, what I had been overlooking, because I was focused on the functionality and ease of use, was that when you assess a student on rubric, a color bar with an arrow appears, like so:

Canvas standard rubric

The very highest rating is green, and the lowest is red. The rest of the colors between green and red are varying shades of orange-yellow, depending on how many ratings you have. So even a 3, which, on addalingua's proficiency scale is mastery/proficient, appears as less than green, veering toward red. And red, we all know, whether we like it or not, isn't a friendly grading color. 


I was taught in college not to use red to grade my students. So I used purple. But I didn't ever read any research about it, until recently. I found an article - "The pen is mightier than the word: Object priming of evaluative standards"  - written by Abraham M. Rutchick, Michael L. Slepian, and Bennett D. Ferris and published in 2010 in the European Journal of Psychology. This article states the anti-red reason in a nutshell, for me:

"Because red pens are closely associated with error-marking and poor performance, the use of red pens when correcting student work can activate these concepts.” red. Now, back to the comment, "We need to change that." My initial response was...we can't. There's nowhere to customize the rubric colors within Canvas - that's just what it does. My second response was...well, let me see about that. I had an idea that might just work. Turns out, it did. I want to share that with you.


Canvas Admins can customize their Learning Mastery Rating Scale colors and definitions. This I knew. What I wondered, though, was if you used the Outcomes that were tied to Learning Mastery and pulled them on to a Rubric, would those Rubric colors be the Learning Mastery Colors? The answer is a big, happy, YES.


So what I did for addalingua is build all of their Rubrics strictly using Outcomes. This takes some time, but it has a lot of benefits, including being able to run amazing reports about mastery, and allowing teachers to see student mastery at a glance through the Learning Mastery Gradebook. What does this look like for them? 


Their Learning Mastery ratings and colors were customized this way...

learning mastery colors

...and that carries over to all of their Rubrics...

addalingua rubric


I'd love to hear if you tried this, if you want to try this in the future, or any thoughts that you have about this idea! 


-Erin Keefe

Principal Consultant, Instructure