Rubrics are tools specifically designed to define the criteria for assessment. They are shared with students at the onset of a project or assignment to improve performance. Rubrics define the qualities that will be assessed and identify the levels of performance that students might demonstrate for each quality. Many educators believe that rubrics improve student achievement by establishing clearly defined learning outcomes before products are created. This week, we offer tips addressing the guidelines for developing rubrics.
This Week's Tips
Clearly Define Cognitive and Performance Goals in Rubrics (Monday)
Determine and clearly define the cognitive and performance outcomes before beginning to construct a rubric. Student mastery of learning goals as assessed through a rubric depends on students understanding the desired outcomes. List all of the skills and concepts associated with the assignment, and select the most important for inclusion on the rubric. Write a brief paragraph describing the desired student performance for each criterion selected.
Evaluate Only Measurable Criteria in Rubrics (Tuesday)
Evaluate only measurable criteria on a rubric. Consider your description of the desired student performance for the most important cognitive or performance outcomes. Select only measurable criteria to be included on the rubric. Word the criteria clearly and specifically to describe exactly what is being measured. For example, an effective writing rubric might measure whether an essay consists of five developed paragraphs. Although important, a less effective rubric might attempt to measure effort.
Limit the Number of Evaluative Criteria in Rubrics (Wednesday)
Limit the number of evaluative criteria in order to maintain student focus on the most important cognitive or performance outcomes. An effective rubric should fit on one side of a sheet of paper. Longer rubrics risk not focusing on the most important learning outcomes. Such rubrics are overwhelming to students and may lower student achievement. Effective rubrics are limited in scope to the most important measurable outcomes.
Match Evaluative Terms to Expected Learning Outcomes in Rubrics (Thursday)
Match evaluative terms to expected learning outcomes. While mastery of a concept or skill is always the most desired outcome, teachers know that student performance will vary. Teachers should determine the levels of student performance that correspond to the outcomes being assessed and then incorporate appropriate terminology into the rubric. For example, student performance levels might consist of: needs improvement, satisfactory, good, and exemplary; or novice, proficient, accomplished. Be certain students understand the evaluative terms and how each is applied to the rubric criterion.
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Embrace the Dynamic Nature of Rubrics (Friday)
Embrace the dynamic nature of rubrics and revise as necessary. When grading, you may find that the assignment elicited a cognitive or performance outcome that you did not include in the original rubric. In this case, add it as an evaluative measure. If students helped to devise the original rubric and begin to question one of the criteria as they work on the assignment, consider the validity of their concerns and revise the rubric. If you are uncomfortable revising it midstream, note the change and include it before using the rubric again. Rubrics, like learning, are dynamic and should always reflect the most important measurable outcomes. Sometimes those are refined as learning is taking place.