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Michael D. Eisner College of Education

California Science Project

Individual Reflection Rubic (Cycle A)


4 3 2 1
Personal Understanding - How do you explain this to yourself? "I think..."
A list of things you know and a list of questions about things you know you don't know or wonder about A list of questions you have about the situation A list of things you think you know about the situation. 
A list of some ideas related to the topic.
Supported by reasons, "Because..."
You think through the situation even more by examining when your understanding might be accurate, or if it is accurate what the implications would be. You analyze your prior knowledge  to see if it makes sense.
You describe why you believe your understanding to be accurate or not accurate, such as based on some experience or related knowledge.
You give some reason, such as where you learned or hear about it.
Rationale - "Based on ...."
You support your ideas with the best explanations and reasons you currently have.
You give some reasons for why you think what you think. This may include your personal experience, or things you have heard or learned.
You support your explanations with one or more examples.
You explain that you don't know why you think what you think



Identify what you currently understand to be true (prior knowledge) and any reasons or sources you have for those understandings.


The mind is a wonderful thing. As soon as you read or hear a question, your mind races to make associations, bring prior experiences to bear, and think of reasons about why things are the way they are. It is said that "nature abhors a vacuum" and the mind seems to be no different.

Piaget found that even five-year-olds have explanation about almost everything. When he asked Swiss five-year-olds, "Which came first--Lake Geneva or the city of Geneva?" they each had an explanation and reasons for their thinking. "The city came first, then they built the lake to swim in," some said. Or, "They liked the lake so they built a city around it."

Unless these personal understandings are revealed and examined, they often remain intact, in spite of countervailing evidence. Students learn quickly that it is "explanation giving" not the "theory building" that is required to be successful in most classes. Students tell teachers what others--the book, the experts, the teacher--think, not what they think, so their own explanations never come out.

What keeps people from revealing their own personal understandings? Often, no one asks about them. Or, when an understanding is expressed, it is critiqued, rather than explored. Some people do not want to be wrong. Others are used to examining their own thoughts or checking in on what they think they understand. These personal understandings are tenacious, particularly if they are never revealed. They hang on and interfere with developing deep and accurate understandings. Even with these private ideas out in the open, it takes time to evolve them through discussion and experience. This course is based on the idea that for learners to develop a deep and accurate understanding of complex ideas, such as Earth System Science, inquiry into what learners think they understand in light of what there is to know needs to be the standard way of teaching.

To get your personal understandings out, state what you think. Make that educated guess, search for what "makes sense" to you, and pull out the reasons for why you think so. By starting with your personal understandings, you will be more actively engaged in supporting, elaborating, or debunking them. The purpose of this assignment is for you to list what you already know and how you would explain things. You do not need to conduct any research about what anyone else thinks to do this assignment.

When we suggest you give reasons for your current understanding, you may feel you do not know enough, or have the facts to back up what you think you know.  What is important is that you give the best explanation you have for why you think what you think.  This gives you a starting point for developing a better explanation as you learn more and being able to explain your reasoning in the future.


Your individual work this cycle corresponds to PBL Steps 1, 2, and 3 and focuses on an Earth system science event. The rubric below assesses how well you do PBL Steps 2 and 3 in your effort to get your personal understanding out and well-elaborated.

Using the same rubric that your facilitator will use, rate your attempt to express your personal understanding. Remember you are developing your ability and willingness to make your thinking visible, so you can increase the sophistication and accuracy of your understanding. How well you make these ideas visible is the focus of this rubric.