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Assessments with Rubrics

Assessing students’ work is a common activity in the life of any instructor, and depending on the number of students and type of assignment, can be a long and tedious process. Even after sharing grades and posting feedback, students are often interested in how the instructor arrived at a certain point value or score. Consequently, instructors often spend additional time answering students’ questions to “justify” their assessments.

One tool to provide efficient, consistent, and more objective feedback to students is a grading rubric. A rubric is generally a matrix that explicitly lists evaluation criteria and standards (Walvoord, 2010), each associated with a detailed description and score. Grading rubrics can be applied to all course formats (i.e. face-to-face, hybrid, online), content areas, and to various types of assignments (e.g., participation, papers, presentations).

Value of Rubrics

In addition to being a great time-saver for instructors in the long run, rubrics are particularly valuable because they also offer transparency into the grading process. When communicated to students, rubrics share assignment expectations and can be considered a sort of informal contract. If students know how they will be evaluated before they are given an assignment, they have more opportunity to fulfill the highest level of expectations. If instructors articulate how they will evaluate student performance, then there is a lower chance of misunderstanding on how the instructor arrived at grades. Thus, grading rubrics can take arbitrariness out of grading and help foster a more trustful relationship between students and instructors.

Components of Rubric

Although terminology might slightly vary, grading rubrics are generally composed of three parts:

Level of Competency
(higher)
Level of Competency
(medium)
Level of Competency
(lowest)
Evaluation Criteria 1 Description Value Description Value Description Value
Evaluation Criteria 2 Description Value Description Value Description Value
Evaluation Criteria 3 Description Value Description Value Description Value
  1. Evaluation Criteria, generally displayed in rows, focus on measuring a stated objective of an assessment or the “performance” of a student on a certain part of the assignment. Criteria can be separated into various categories (e.g., content, process).
  2. To articulate the extent a students meets a criteria, a rubric contains multiple (two or more) Levels of Competencies, generally displayed in columns. Importantly, each level contains a written description helping students understand expectations and requirements.
  3. A numeric value (e.g., scale) that corresponds with the mastery of the objective is associated with each level of competency. In the end, the numeric values are totaled in the overall score for the assignment.

Example: Rubric for Discussion Forum Participation

Criteria Exceeds Expectations
(2 points)
Meets Expectations
(1 points)
Needs Revision
(0 points)
Quantity and Timeliness Submits a thoughtful and substantive original post by Day 5 of the session and two or more substantive responses to other learners throughout the session. Submits a substantive original post early in the session and at least one substantive response to another learner during the session. Does not submit at least one substantive original post during the session. Does not submit at least one substantive response to another learner during the session.
Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of content and ability to make connections to other learnings Posts and responses show evidence of knowledge and understanding of course content and ability to make connections to other learnings; includes other resources that extend the learning of the community. Posts and responses show evidence of knowledge and understanding of course content and ability to make connections to other learnings. Posts and responses show little evidence of knowledge and understanding of course content or ability to make connections.
Generates learning within the community Posts by learner build upon other participants’ comments by questioning, summarizing, paraphrasing or elaborating on the responses to others. May integrate multiple views from other learners to take the discussion deeper. Posts by learner build upon the ideas of other participants to take the discussion deeper. Posts by learner do not build upon the ideas of other participants.

Getting Started

Although there are various types of rubrics that fulfill different purposes, the following questions can help you get started with creating a rubric. Please feel free to download the rubric template as you think about the questions.

  • What you would like your students to achieve?
  • What are criteria that show that students have achieved this goal? (evaluation criteria)
  • Can these criteria be broken down into individual traits? (levels of competencies)
  • How does one differentiate between quality levels of traits? (description & values)

Are you currently using or considering using rubrics in your course? Do you see other benefit of rubrics (besides clarifying expectations, being a time-saver, etc.)? Please feel free to comment and share your experiences or examples with the community.

Additional Resources & Examples

Reference

  1. Walvoord, B.E., (2010). Assessment clear and simple: A practical guide for institutions, departments, and general education. Wiley