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Rethinking the Rubric

Rubrics can be problematic for teachers.  Rubrics cost time to create, students may ignore/not understand project requirements if rubrics are complex,  and Rubrics may introduce grading concerns.  (Do you find you tweak your ratings to end up with the grade you think the student deserves? )

My last few posts have been about Rubrics and ways to use them to make grading more efficient.  This post poses the question:

How can I change my Rubric so it is more user friendly for me and my students?

In my previous posts, I used a typical rubric example:

Does this rubric template serve you best?   Based on this blog post by Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy and Mark Wise, consider these 5 steps to 'Repair your Rubric':

1.  Measure what really matters


Single Point Rubrics:

Sometimes, we create Rubrics with many categories.  Lots of categories make it hard for students to focus on their expected learning outcome.   Consider using a Single Point Rubric.  The rubric language outlines how the student meets standards.  Time and energy spent on language for multiple ratings and attempting to cover every situation (like the Rubric above) are saved.

The rubric below, developed by Sara Kiesselbach and Sandy Haupt for their BioStatistics course, is an excellent example of a Single Point Rubric outlining what a good project will look like:

Limit Your Categories:

Limit your categories to items you really care about students learning.  If a topic earns a spot as a category, we should probably provide some instruction for that category.

Note the Before/After examples below.  Changes to the rubric align it more closely to the project learning goals:

2.  Rate your Criteria appropriately:

Give the category the importance it deserves in the Rubric.  (I definitely see teachers doing this well.)  If the content is more important than aesthetics, your Rubric should reflect that:

3.  Check your Math!

If you use a traditional rating system with scores ranging from 1 to 5, giving a score of 4 means that student earns a C (75%) for that category.  That may not be the score you expect a 4 out of 5 to receive, and may not represent the nuanced grading system you need.  Ratings need not follow a 1 to 5 scoring system.  Note that the Single Point rubric developed by Sara Kiesselbach and Sandy Haupt used a scoring system from 7 to 10.  Using decimals and a different range of numbers may serve you and your students better.

4.  Can Do Rubrics, not Can't Do Rubrics:

Think about rubrics as a continuum.  Your score defines where the student places on the path to the end goal.  For example, the typical swimming rubric outlines what skills students need to achieve a certain level.  There is little judgment, and you master earlier skills (treading water, for example) to reach the goal of swimming independently in the deep end. 

See an example of a rubric changed from Can't Do to Can Do below:

Rubrics adapted from Asia Society Center for Global Education.

5.  Provide Models - lots of them!

Help students understand what excellent work and lower on the continuum work look like!  Show them both high quality and lesser quality student work examples from previous years (without names).  You can even add links within your rubric to outstanding student work that is a powerful example for that category.   This helps inform students where their work is on the continuum and shows them exactly how they need to improve.  

Try some of these steps to alleviate your Rubric concerns.  Again, the 5 Rubric Repair steps include:
  1. Measure What Matters  
  2. Rate your Criteria Appropriately
  3. Check Your Math
  4. Can Do Rubrics
  5. Provide Models.  
Let me know if one or more of these 5 steps provide you with a better Rubric experience! 


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