A rubric is an explicit set of criteria used for assessing a particular type of work or performance (TLT Group, n.d.) and provides more details than a single grade or mark. Rubrics, therefore, will help you grade more objectively.
Have your students ever asked, “Why did you grade me that way?” or stated, “You never told us that we would be graded on grammar!” As a grading tool, rubrics can address these and other issues related to assessment: they reduce grading time; they increase objectivity and reduce subjectivity; they convey timely feedback to students and they improve students’ ability to include required elements of an assignment (Stevens & Levi, 2005). Grading rubrics can be used to assess a range of activities in any subject area
Typically designed as a grid-type structure, a grading rubric includes criteria, levels of performance, scores, and descriptors which become unique assessment tools for any given assignment. The table below illustrates a simple grading rubric with each of the four elements for a history research paper.
|Excellent (3 points)
|Good (2 points)
|Poor (1 point)
Number of sources
Ten to twelve
Five to nine
One to four
No apparent inaccuracies
Lots of historical inaccuracies
Can easily tell from which sources information was drawn
Can tell with difficulty from where information came
Cannot tell from which source information came
All relevant bibliographic information is included
Bibliography contains most relevant information
Bibliography contains very little information
Criteria identify the trait, feature or dimension which is to be measured and include a definition and example to clarify the meaning of each trait being assessed. Each assignment or performance will determine the number of criteria to be scored. Criteria are derived from assignments, checklists, grading sheets or colleagues.
Levels of performance are often labeled as adjectives which describe the performance levels. Levels of performance determine the degree of performance which has been met and will provide for consistent and objective assessment and better feedback to students. These levels tell students what they are expected to do. Levels of performance can be used without descriptors but descriptors help in achieving objectivity. Words used for levels of performance could influence a student’s interpretation of performance level (such as superior, moderate, poor or above or below average).
Levels of performance determine the degree of performance which has been met and will provide for consistent and objective assessment and better feedback to students.
Scores make up the system of numbers or values used to rate each criterion and often are combined with levels of performance. Begin by asking how many points are needed to adequately describe the range of performance you expect to see in students’ work. Consider the range of possible performance level.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 2, 4, 6, 8
Descriptors are explicit descriptions of the performance and show how the score is derived and what is expected of the students. Descriptors spell out each level (gradation) of performance for each criterion and describe what performance at a particular level looks like. Descriptors describe how well students’ work is distinguished from the work of their peers and will help you to distinguish between each student’s work. Descriptors should be detailed enough to differentiate between the different level and increase the objectivity of the rater.
Descriptors...describe what performance at a particular level looks like.
First, consider using any of a number of existing rubrics available online. Many rubrics can be used “as is.” Or, you could modify a rubric by adding or deleting elements or combining others for one that will suit your needs. Finally, you could create a completely customized rubric using specifically designed rubric software or just by creating a table with the rubric elements. The following steps will help you develop a rubric no matter which option you choose.
Begin with a performance or assignment which may be difficult to grade and where you want to reduce subjectivity.
It is suggested to start with fewer [score] levels and to distinguish between work that does not meet the criteria.
Determining which type of rubric to use depends on what and how you plan to evaluate. There are several types of rubrics including holistic, analytical, general, and task-specific. Each of these will be described below.
All criteria are assessed as a single score. Holistic rubrics are good for evaluating overall performance on a task. Because only one score is given, holistic rubrics tend to be easier to score. However, holistic rubrics do not provide detailed information on student performance for each criterion; the levels of performance are treated as a whole.
Each criterion is assessed separately, using different descriptive ratings. Each criterion receives a separate score. Analytical rubrics take more time to score but provide more detailed feedback.
A generic rubric contains criteria that are general across tasks and can be used for similar tasks or performances. Criteria are assessed separately, as in an analytical rubric.
Assesses a specific task. Unique criteria are assessed separately. However, it may not be possible to account for each and every criterion involved in a particular task which could overlook a student’s unique solution (Arter & McTighe, 2001).
Grading rubrics are effective and efficient tools which allow for objective and consistent assessment of a range of performances, assignments, and activities. Rubrics can help clarify your expectations and will show students how to meet them, making students accountable for their performance in an easy-to-follow format. The feedback that students receive through a grading rubric can help them improve their performance on revised or subsequent work. Rubrics can help to rationalize grades when students ask about your method of assessment. Rubrics also allow for consistency in grading for those who team teach the same course, for TAs assigned to the task of grading, and serve as good documentation for accreditation purposes. Several online sources exist which can be used in the creation of customized grading rubrics; a few of these are listed below.
Arter, J., & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using performance criteria for assessing and improving student performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. J. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
The Teaching, Learning, and Technology Group (n.d.). Rubrics: Definition, tools, examples, references. http://www.tltgroup.org/resources/flashlight/rubrics.htm
Dodge, B. (2001). Creating a rubric on a given task. http://webquest.sdsu.edu/rubrics/rubrics.html
Wilson, M. (2006). Rethinking rubrics in writing assessment. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
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Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Rubrics for assessment. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide