How can I evaluate and improve my rubric?

In practice and in the literature, ‘rubric’ is defined in several slightly different ways. A common definition of a rubric is a document that “articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria or what counts, and describes levels of quality from excellent to poor.” (Reddy & Andrade, 2010, p. 435).

Rubrics have been shown to be helpful for both teachers and students as they help:

  • Demystify assignment expectations
  • Provide students with clear, direct and focused feedback for improving their learning
  • Make it possible for self- and peer-review/reflection on their learning (Andrade, 2000; Ragupathi & Lee, 2020; Sanger & Gleason, 2020)

The current document articulates how to create rubrics that are both meaningful and beneficial for your students, your markers, and/or yourself.

Evidence-base

The literature generally recommends the use of rubrics as a way of making assessments, especially the marking/evaluative judgements associated with them, more transparent for students and teachers/markers (Andrade, 2000; Conrad & Openo, 2018; Ragupathi & Lee, 2020; Reddy & Andrade, 2010). In order to achieve such transparency, Reddy and Andrade (2010) recommend that an effective rubric has three essential features:

  • Clearly stated evaluative criteria What the students will be marked on and, therefore, what is deemed important in determining the quality of a student’s work).
  • Quality definitions of grades What the student must do to demonstrate a skill, proficiency, etc. in order to attain a particular level of achievement, for example poor, fair, good, or excellent).
  • A scoring strategy The maximum and minimum marks the student may receive for each evaluative criteria).

Five Top Tips

  1. Define the goal and purpose of the task being evaluated. Before starting to develop the rubric, the teacher should review the learning outcomes associated with the assessment task. There should be clear alignment between the learning outcome(s), the task(s), and the rubric.

  2. Define the criteria. Teachers need to consider what knowledge, skills, and/or performances need to be demonstrated to show mastery of the specific assessment task. These should be broken down into clearly described and distinct pieces, with ideally less than ten pieces.

  3. Use consistent language. Teachers should make sure that the language they use in each of the rubric’s columns is similar, so that it is clear what differentiates the different columns. Often this will involve just changing one or two words so that it is obvious that the difference is “having” or “not having” something.

  4. Use student friendly language. Teachers should try to ensure that they are using language that is easily understood by their students. If the students can’t understand the rubric, they can’t use it to guide their work.

  5. Allow the students to use it. This requires providing the rubric to the students before they start work on the assessment task. Ideally, the rubric should be provided when the assessment is first introduced to the students, so that the rubric helps guide the development of the assessment. Teachers should also allocate some time, when discussing the assessment, to explain the rubric and showing the students how this document can be beneficial to them.

Useful Resources

Here is a list of additional resources regarding rubrics:

References

Andrade, H. G. (2000). Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and Learning. Educational Leadership, 57(5), 13–18.

Conrad, D., & Openo, J. (2018). Assessment Strategies for Online Learning: Engagement and Authenticity. Athabasca University Press. https://doi.org/10.15215/aupress/9781771992329.01

Ragupathi, K., & Lee, A. (2020). Beyond Fairness and Consistency in Grading: The Role of Rubrics in Higher Education. In C. S. Sanger & N. W. Gleason (Eds.), Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education: Lessons from Across Asia (pp. 73–95). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1628-3_3

Reddy, Y. M., & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(4), 435–448. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602930902862859

Sanger, C. S., & Gleason, N. W. (Eds.). (2020). Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education: Lessons from Across Asia. Springer Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1628-3