Grading and Performance Rubrics
What are Rubrics?
A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.
Advantages of Using Rubrics
Using a rubric provides several advantages to both instructors and students. Grading according to an explicit and descriptive set of criteria that is designed to reflect the weighted importance of the objectives of the assignment helps ensure that the instructor’s grading standards don’t change over time. Grading consistency is difficult to maintain over time because of fatigue, shifting standards based on prior experience, or intrusion of other criteria. Furthermore, rubrics can reduce the time spent grading by reducing uncertainty and by allowing instructors to refer to the rubric description associated with a score rather than having to write long comments. Finally, grading rubrics are invaluable in large courses that have multiple graders (other instructors, teaching assistants, etc.) because they can help ensure consistency across graders and reduce the systematic bias that can be introduced between graders.
Used more formatively, rubrics can help instructors get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their class. By recording the component scores and tallying up the number of students scoring below an acceptable level on each component, instructors can identify those skills or concepts that need more instructional time and student effort.
Grading rubrics are also valuable to students. A rubric can help instructors communicate to students the specific requirements and acceptable performance standards of an assignment. When rubrics are given to students with the assignment description, they can help students monitor and assess their progress as they work toward clearly indicated goals. When assignments are scored and returned with the rubric, students can more easily recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their work and direct their efforts accordingly.
Examples of Rubrics
Here are links to a diverse set of rubrics designed by Carnegie Mellon faculty and faculty at other institutions. Although your particular field of study and type of assessment activity may not be represented currently, viewing a rubric that is designed for a similar activity may provide you with ideas on how to divide your task into components and how to describe the varying levels of mastery.
- Example 1: Capstone Project in Design This rubric describes the components and standard of performance from the research phase to the final presentation for a senior capstone project in the School of Design, CMU.
- Example 2: Engineering Design Project This rubric describes performance standards on three aspects of a team project: Research and Design, Communication, and Team Work.
- Example 1: Discussion Class This rubric assesses the quality of student contributions to class discussions. This is appropriate for an undergraduate-level course, CMU.
- Example 2: Advanced Seminar This rubric is designed for assessing discussion performance in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar.
The practice of using single point rubrics is slowly but surely catching on. The simplicity of these rubrics — with just a single column of criteria, rather than a full menu of performance levels — offers a whole host of benefits:
- Teachers find them easier and faster to create, because they no longer have to spend precious time thinking up all the different ways students could fail to meet expectations.
- Students find them easier to read when preparing an assignment. With only the target expectations to focus on, they are more likely to read those expectations.
- They allow for higher-quality feedback, because teachers must specify key problem areas and notable areas of excellence for that particular student, rather than choosing from a list of generic descriptions.
Want to Learn More?
I first talked about this type of rubric in an earlier post (Know Your Terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics), and again in a post I wrote for Brilliant or Insane (Your Rubric is a Hot Mess; Here’s How to Fix It). If this is the first time you’ve encountered this type of rubric, reading both of these will give you some background knowledge on all the different types of rubrics and why the single-point deserves world domination.
Show Us Your Rubrics!
I urge you to take one of your most convoluted rubrics and make a single-point version of it. Then show it to the world, so other teachers can learn: Take a screenshot of it and post the picture on Twitter with the hashtag #singlepointrubric. If you aren’t on Twitter or don’t feel like doing this, just put a link to your rubric in the comments below. Help us start a movement to rid the world of ineffective rubrics!
Another Variation (Added in 2017)
After considering some of the limitations of this format, I played around with the rubric a bit more and came up with this variation:
The original version of the single point rubric allowed no space for actually pointing out when the student hit the standard, apart from maybe circling or highlighting the middle column. With this format, teachers can pinpoint where the student is on each descriptor, then offer feedback, either constructive, positive, or both.
To grab a copy of this for your own modification, click here.
Need Ready-Made Rubrics?
My Rubric Pack gives you four different designs in Microsoft Word and Google Docs formats. It also comes with video tutorials to show you how to customize them for any need, plus a Teacher’s Manual to help you understand the pros and cons of each style. Check it out here:
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