A rubric is a way of defining what is expected in a given assignment.
It is generally best to provide a rubric in advance of an assignment being submitted, so students know how their work will be evaluated. According to Brookhart (2013), “A rubric is a coherent set of criteria for students’ work that includes descriptions of levels of performance quality on the criteria” (p. 4). McTighe (2018) notes that “Transfer abilities can best be measured through authentic, performance-based tasks, with well-developed rubrics for evaluation” (p. 16).
Rubrics can be created by the professor, or co-created with students.
Benefits of Using Rubrics
The following are just some of the benefits of using rubrics in your teaching:
- Saves time – if you set up a rubric in Canvas, for example, you can check the boxes as you go along and Canvas will add up the points for you
- Clarifies expectations – students have clear learning targets and quality of work. Should be presented at the beginning.
- Evidence – reflects evidence of student learning
- Consistency – provides consistent grading of student achievement
- Quantitative data – rubrics provide numeric data reflective of student learning, which can be correlated and compared
- Higher-Order Thinking – According to Brookhart (2010), “Studies have shown that holding students accountable for higher-order thinking by using assignments and assessments that require intellectual work and critical thinking increases student motivation as well as achievement. Students do not become engaged with their studies in the abstract” (p. 12).
- Observations – fair evaluations that avoid rash judgments
- Performance tasks – reflect student mastery of academic standards and the ability to apply their learning to different contexts i.e. a product, a performance, or a final written assignment. These tasks should be set in a realistic context.
- Oral presentations – reflects expectations to communicate mastery and application of content. Provides thorough evaluation of student presentations.
- Personal communication – provides context to discuss progress with students through teacher-student conferences
- Professor feedback – opportunity to provide detailed and timely formative feedback to students regarding their academic progress and to clarify any misunderstandings
- Student self-assessment and goal setting – allows a student to develop self-efficacy and agency by evaluating their progress towards the learning target.
- Peer assessment – provides an opportunity for students to receive feedback from their peers. Also provides an opportunity for students to analyze another students achievement based on the rubric.
- Reflection – allows for student reflection regarding achievement and possible misunderstandings as well as for teacher reflection of effectiveness of their teaching practice and the possible need for reteaching.
- Assessment FOR learning – can involve students in the creation of the rubric. Allows students to take an active role in their learning.
- Multiple measures – for valid and reliable results to reflect evidence of learning, multiple measures of assessment should be evaluated.
As you get started using rubrics, the following resources may be useful.
- Add a Rubric to an Assignment
- Your rubric is a hot mess. Here’s how to fix it…
- The VALUE Institute: Assessment as Transformative Faculty Development
If you would like to further explore resources that are related to rubrics some more, these bookmarks from Bonni Stachowiak are a good place to start. While there are many reasons why you may want to use a rubric, there are some who are critical of their use.
Drawbacks to Using Rubrics
Below are some of the criticisms of using rubrics:
- Does not adequately measure what the student is expected to be able to do
- The focus and explanations are unclear
- Confuse the learning outcome with the performance task
- Brookhart (2013) notes the following concerns:
- Including several content areas
- Including factors other than content such as neatness
- Not focusing on the learning outcomes
- Including content areas not taught
Important Attributes of Effective Rubrics
In order to negate some of the drawbacks, consider being sure that your rubrics contain these essential characteristics of effective rubrics.
- Arter & Chappuis (2006) as cited by Stiggins (2012) state, “The content of a classroom rubric defines what to look for in a student’s product or performance to determine its quality: what will ‘count.’ Teachers and students use this content to determine what they must do in order to succeed” (p. 153).
- Well organized and complete
- Clearly defined performance levels of complexity and understanding
- Appropriateness for academic content learned
- Observable by another person
- Weighted appropriately between content or cognitive elements and conventions
- In addition to rubrics, provide quality examples to students in order to enable them to rate their work in relation to a high-quality example.
- Student-friendly – rubrics should take into consideration student understanding of requirements and should be written in student-friendly language.
Types of Rubrics
There are many different ways a rubric may be constructed. Here are some different types of rubrics:
- Analytic – “An analytic rubric is the examination of the components or structure of something to determine how the parts relate to each other or how they come together to form a whole. Provides a portrait of the continuum of quality” (Stiggins, 2012, p. 52-53).
- Holistic – applies all criteria as a whole
- General – application of the same rubric to various tasks
- Task-specific – applies to specific tasks such as performance tasks
- Compare and contrast – reflects analysis and critical thinking
- Evaluation – students judge the value of material against an intended purpose
- Creation or creativity- “To assess whether students can ‘create’ in the Bloom’s taxonomy sense means assessing whether they can put unlike things together in a new way, or reorganize existing things to make something new” (Brookhart, 2010, p. 55).
- Problem-solving – focuses on problem-solving strategies
Consider sharing rubrics with your colleagues and take advantage of what can be gleaned from that kind of collaboration. In Canvas, you can have a departmental rubric shared across an entire discipline. Be sure to have the person who adds the rubric to be shared have the highest level of admin access across the group who wants to be able to access the rubric. For example, if the business and management department wanted to adopt a common rubric across the entire department (or at least make it available to anyone teaching business classes), a person who had administrative rights to all of the business and management department’s subdomain on Canvas would be the right individual to add the rubric. If an individual professor added it who didn’t have admin access, it would only show up to that person.
Brookhart, S.M. (2010). How to assess higher-order thinking skills in your classroom. ASCD. Alexandria, Virginia.
Brookhart, S.M. (2013). How to create and use rubrics for formative assessment and grading. ASCD. Alexandria, Virginia.
McTighe, J. (2018, February). 3 key questions on measuring learning. Educational Leadership. 75(5), 14-20.
Stiggins, R.J. & Chappuis, J. (2012). An introduction to student-involved assessment FOR learning. Pearson Education, Inc. Boston, MA.