A rubric is…
A rubric is a teaching and learning tool that explicitly describes the specific criteria you will use to evaluate a project or other aspect of a student’s performance (e.g., completed artwork, online discussion, oral presentation, sketches, groupwork).
A rubric includes at least one, preferably three, level(s) of achievement for each of your criteria.
Contain no evaluative words (such as excellent, good, poorly, bad). The point of a rubric is to define what makes a project (or other aspect of student performance) “good” by using descriptive details.
For example, instead of “Good composition,” try “Composition leads the viewer’s eye to the most important information first.”
Are tailored to specific assignments or courses. A rubric that is the same for two courses implies redundancy in course goals and content. Sequenced courses that develop the same skills may have rubrics that contain the same criteria, but progressively more advanced descriptors of achievement.
Make explicit what you value in the work. While rubrics are never completely objective, they should make it easy for a person in your field to judge work in the same way that you do.
Are works in progress. Teachers are constantly finding better ways to respond to student work. Therefore, rubrics should be thought of as works in progress. Teachers should expect to revisit and revise their rubrics regularly.
Why we use rubrics…
Rubrics improve communication with students about assignments and grades.
“Student complaints about grading have been practically eliminated.”
—A. Addison (FND)
“I get much less questioning and confusion about ‘What am I supposed to do?’ and ‘Why and how are you judging this?’ and ‘How come I am getting a C?’ I am just not getting those questions any more.”
— P. Schifrin (FASCU)
“I have two students in my class that I failed previously—they wanted to take me again because they always know exactly what to expect.”
—K. Frieders (IAD)
Rubrics push students to achieve more.
“I am getting more work in the ‘A’ range since I started using the rubric. Now students can actually see what an ‘A’ is.”
— P. Schifrin (FASCU)
“Students ask more intelligent questions [with the rubric].”
— S. Murphy (FSH)
Rubrics communicate standards to people who provide extra help for students
— (ESL support teachers, workshop teachers, Writing Lab tutors, peers).
“If there is a rubric, it really helps me see what the teacher is looking for.”
— Writing Lab tutor
Rubrics improve communication with colleagues.
“I had to take on three sections of a course I had never taught before at mid-semester for a teacher who left unexpectedly. Thank God there was a rubric!”
Rubrics empower students.
“Students are able to use the language [from the rubric] to assess their work—there are discussion points. Otherwise, they don’t know what to look for and they don’t know how to arrange their work.”
—M. Keelan (FASCU)
Rubrics focus teaching.
“The rubric helps me understand that there are all of these different components…more me standardizing my own criteria.”
— L. Vuscovic (IDS)
“They help me make sure I am meeting my objectives.”
— B. White (IAD)