Exploring the history of and the emotional attachment to a teacher tool using a theoretical framework for interactions.

Merillat, Linda L., Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2008


"Oooh, I loooove RubiStar!" What is it about this teacher tool that has inspired such an ardent following of devotees? The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to document the process that had been used in developing successful teacher tools, explore why this tool had become so popular, and to identify key characteristics of the tool from a teacher's perspective. A Theoretical Framework for Interactions (TFI) was articulated that guided the researcher to consider who was involved, what were their goals and motivations, what did they do, what was the social, cultural, and physical context for their interactions, and, most importantly, how were the individuals changed over time. The research was conducted in three phases: historical research on the development process of the tool, a phenomenological study with users of the tool, and an online survey with current and past users.

RubiStar emerged out of a university-based, grant-funded organization that had experienced previous successes and failures developing teacher tools for the Internet. The development team had a singular focus on giving teachers what they needed, and the "caring concern" of the designers was instrumental in the design and ongoing success of the application. Interviews with 17 participants and survey results from 451 respondents led the researcher to conclude that what the respondents valued was what the tool could do for them--the results of using the tool--and not the specific attributes or features of the tool. Significant positive correlations were found between beliefs about RubiStar and feelings about RubiStar that ranged from .36 to .57, p < .0005. Additional analysis showed that as individuals gain more experience using rubrics, they tend to use rubrics more, and in broader, more varied ways. For thirteen behaviors surveyed, significant positive correlations were found between the reported frequency of the behavior and years of experience using rubrics that ranged from .17 to .27, p < .0005. Often mentioned as being important were these key characteristics: (1) it's easy to use; (2) it's flexible; (3) it's free; (4) it's available on the Web; and (5)