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Rubrics

We have criteria in our minds when we grade an assignment (whether for a course or a capstone), and we apply those criteria to determine the grade of the project. Often, however, we have not made those criteria explicit or shared them with students ahead of time. Rubrics help us do this. Rubrics are criterion-based rating scales that simplify and standardize the demonstration of student learning (knowledge, skills, or both).

Benefits of Rubrics
  • They help students understand your expectations.
  • They can inspire better student performance, since students will be clear about what you value and how you will evaluate them.
  • They make scoring easier and faster, leaving you more time and energy to add any specific comments that go beyond the rubric scaling.
  • They make scoring more accurate, unbiased, and consistent, since every assignment is evaluated using the same criteria and since the criteria are right there for you to review.
  • Marked-up rubrics returned with assignments (where relevant) help students understand their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Rubrics facilitate your ability to see patterns in where students are succeeding or falling short in terms of course (or program) skills and knowledge.
  • Rubrics reduce student arguments and complaints about grades by making scoring criteria explicit, allowing you to focus those conversations with students on how they can improve their performance rather on defending your grading practices.
  • Rubrics can facilitate timely feedback by reducing the overall time spent grading while providing no less meaningful feedback than you do now – surely a benefit on the Block Plan.
  • In some cases, students who won’t read comments carefully may be more amenable to the detailed feedback of a rubric.
  • Rubrics can level the playing field for students who come from backgrounds that prepared them less effectively for CC. Poor and working-class students are more likely than upper-middle-class students to have had educational experiences that prepare them to follow instructions very well, but that did not prepare them for more open-ended assignments, or for assignments that demand substantial internal motivation. They are also less likely to ask a professor for clarification than their wealthier peers. Rubrics can clarify expectations without constraining a professor to be so specific that an assignment no longer calls for higher-order thinking.
  • Rubrics facilitate departmental conversation regarding cross-course consistency.
  • Rubrics may be able to help you refine your teaching skills in some cases.
Additional Resources

This document can help you create a strong rubric for assessment.

Using Rubrics

Once you are confident that your rubric accurately captures your student learning intent, compare materials intended to demonstrate student learning (papers, performances, etc.) to the rubric and, as honestly as possible, determine how effectively each student demonstrated learning with regard to each outcome. This is best done with more than one faculty member reviewing and discussing student materials, rubric in hand.