Although teachers have a responsibility to enhance a student’s knowledge level, they should also be required to ensure that students understand the expectations on each assignment they complete. Rubrics are the systems of measurement that teachers should be using to maintain academic fairness in their classrooms and to provide authentic assessments of learning. As teachers come to understand and use a standard set of rubrics, students, parents and administrators will be confident in grading decisions and assignment standards.
What are rubrics?
Rubrics are a set of instructions that show both the teacher and student the expectations for an assignment. Students in a writing course might not know how to excel on their graded papers unless the teacher provides specifics on how the assignment will be measured. Usually, rubrics include certain skill areas that will be tested and show how to meet criteria for each grade level within those skill areas. For example, a theater teacher might want to grade on expressive vocal performance. She would give a certain set of instructions on how to get an A, B, C or lower grade so that students know how to best complete the assignment.
Benefits of Using Rubrics
There are inherent benefits for providing rubrics as a teacher. Firstly, students will have more confidence in completing work since the elements that they will be evaluated on are clearly designated. Secondly, parents and administrators appreciate a clear behavioral or educational objective that they can refer to if conflict about grades or behavior arises. Finally, rubrics give the teacher more structure and impartiality in grading. When the graded elements are clearly defined and understood by students, teachers find that grading becomes easier and a less personal experience. It also fosters trust by students and parents.
How To Create Rubrics
The initial step of creating effective rubrics is to decide what your final goal is. Usually teachers define rubrics in response to a certain assignment or behavior. If your goal is to define an assignment, you may want to talk with other teachers who have done similar ones and borrow rubric elements that have already been designed. If your goal is to create behavior rubrics, you may benefit from talking with your students and incorporating feedback into your classroom behavior design.
Once you know your desired outcomes, you will need to create a few key areas (4 to 7) that students should focus on. For a science class, you may choose elements like Following Directions, Reporting, and Collaboration. It is very important that the areas you choose are important to the overall standards of the lesson, as well as being quantifiable in some way. Another thing to remember is that you want to have just a few areas for students to be graded on as too many will be overwhelming and too few will end up being vague.
After you have chosen your areas of focus, you need to delineate each area into specifically defined requirements. For an art teacher, a major area might be Use of Color and the requirements might be 1) Uses a variety of colors that connect to the main theme and 2) Color enhances the main image. These should be action items that a student can understand and perform. As you teach the rubrics, you will spend most of your time clarifying these elements.
At this point, you need to determine how your grades for each assignment will be weighted. A specific grade or point number should be allotted for each section (and possibly each element) so that students see how they can achieve their desired grade level. This is the second most important area to teach when presenting your rubrics. It is vital that students are clear on how each section connects with their overall grade.
The next step is to actually create your rubrics in a spreadsheet, word document, or rubric generator. Wording should be clear, specific and direct, avoiding any unnecessary language. Each graded element should be clearly defined and you may benefit from using a summary at the end to act as a quick reference for assignment grading. Many teachers also use a checklist format to encourage students to verify they have completed each element before turning in the assignment. Simple formatting is encouraged and it is best to avoid unusual fonts or unnecessary pictures.
Completing and Sharing the Rubric
Once you have completed your rubrics, you will have an excellent document to help teach your expectations to the class. Make sure you cover each section carefully, prompt questions and encourage clarification. During the course of the assignment, it is a good idea to refer back to the rubrics many times in order to help students recognize its value in the classroom.
Teachnology.com has a great elementary behavioral rubric maker that you can customize for each student or classroom.
The West Virginia Gifted and Talented Program has a great example of a gifted behavior rubric complete with an individual point system for each element.
A great resource on how to create rubrics is also found at Kennesaw State University’s website. This site include easy step-by-step instructions and popular formats for creating rubrics.
North Central College also offers a detailed explanation of rubrics including a discussion on analytic and holistic assessments, information about how to write clear expectations and a number of grading styles.
The International Journal for the Study of Learning and Teaching provides access to a professional paper by Sandra Allen and John Knight entitled A Method for Collaboratively Developing and Validating a Rubric. This paper gives a detailed methodology for creating rubrics on a teacher team and includes a variety of additional insight and sources.
The University of Wisconsin has an excellent database of rubrics including multimedia presentations, cooperative learning rubrics and digital performance rubrics for web pages and websites.