Higher Ed Hero’s Tips On Developing College Rubrics

rubric assessmentAs you prepare for the kickoff of the 2014-2015 academic year, it is important to have the best tools available to you for teaching and grading. One such tool, rubrics, can help you save time grading student work while improving the efficiency with which you improve student outcomes. While rubrics are relatively new in higher education, their value to faculty and students has already shown positive results. Rubrics are grading aids that allow you to define the criteria of an assignment or course and set standards to evaluate those criteria from excellent to poor. This gives students a better understanding of what is required of them while giving teachers a set of standards by which to evaluate the work. Rubrics are primarily used for projects, group assignments, research papers and presentations.Here are some simple tips to get started on your rubrics today.

Creating Measureable Learning Outcomes

What are the goals of the assignment? This should be the guiding question when developing rubrics. In order to have a criteria-based assessment, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want your students to learn. The more specific and detailed this is, the better it will be.

Here’s an example of a poor criterion: “Students will demonstrate effective writing skills.” This is too ambiguous for it to be measurable. Instead, state it like this:

“Students demonstrate competence in writing using varying modes, such as narration, argumentation, description and persuasion. They use appropriate language, conventions, organization, supporting evidence, and content appropriate to the purpose of the audience.”

The more detail you provide gives students a clearer understanding of what is expected of them. It will also make your life easier as you’ll have a set of standards by which to grade the work.

Deciding on Your Rubric: Holistic vs. Analytic

Before creating the rubric, it is important to first decide what goals you want to achieve. Clearly, communicating the essential criteria of an assignment is the base of all rubrics, but are you using the rubric for summative or formative assessment? For summative assessment, developing a holistic rubric will allow you to combine all of the criteria into a single score. If you want to have more of a breakdown of how student performed on each criterion, then you would want to develop an analytic rubric. Analytic rubrics will usually identify each criterion and have those broken down into levels. This is useful for helping students understand which areas of an assignment they need to improve in.

Determining an Effective Rubric: Peer-Review and Faculty Assessment 

Once you have the criteria for an assignment determined and decided on the different levels and traits you want to use, it is important to gauge the effectiveness of your rubric. You can find rubric samples online and use those as a basis to create yours. You will want to get an outside perspective. One suggestion is to get a fellow faculty member to review an assignment following your rubric. If that faculty member arrives at similar grading as you did, then chances are the rubric will be effective. A next step would be to have students use rubric standards during peer-review. If students can qualify each other’s work based on your rubric standards (and by extension they’re own work), then it should be good to go. This will also help facilitate peer-review sessions.

There are many other things to consider when developing and using rubrics, but these suggestions will help you get started. While rubrics may require additional work upfront, they can save you considerable time and effort on the back-end when it comes to grading student work. Here is a list of other resources to use when developing rubrics.

If you’d like to hear more on how to develop effective rubrics, please review the recording of our event, “Creating Rubrics: Improve Assessments, Assignments and Outcomes

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Kevin – Higher Ed Hero

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