Teaching With Rubrics
Just as learning goals are explicit statements of what you want your students to master in your course, rubrics are explicit statements that help clarify your expectations of students on any given assessment. A rubric that is well aligned with the learning goals and assessment will give students a clear sense of what you want and, in turn, make grading easier. Complex projects may require detailed rubrics, while simple assignments may only need a one or two sentence rubric. The process of developing a clear and aligned rubric is iterative, and can even help you refine your goals and assessments.
Rubrics can be used with a variety of course work, including: writing assignments, homework assignments, class projects, short-answer or essay-type test questions, etc. Carnegie Mellon has a number of example rubrics for these different types of assessments.
Benefits and Challenges of Rubrics
Benefits of rubrics include:
- Streamlining the grading process
- Providing clear and explicit expectations for students, leading to better work
- Resulting student work reflects of the values of an assignment (where the emphasis should be placed)
Challenges with rubrics include:
- Possible mismatch between the instructor goals and student interpretation
- Students that don't read the rubric
To gain the full benefits (and avoid the common challenges), rubrics must be specific for the assignment and use language that students understand. Terms used in the rubric should be measurable (avoid terms such as imaginative, creative) and relate directly to the learning goals. Students may also benefit from examples and practice applying the rubric.
Developing a rubric: a step-by-step approach
- Identify the criteria you will be assessing
What do you want your students to demonstrate? How will they show you they have become proficient or mastered a specific skill? Start with a learning goal you will be assessing. From this goal, list your criteria; for example, you might want their writing to cite the primary literature in a report and include a bibliography in a specific format. This could be an explicit criteria to measure. You may also want to see a specific writing style, depth of analysis, correct use of terms, argumentation, etc. Any or all of these could be included a criteria in the rubric. For a group presentation rubric, perhaps you want to include criteria that covers the degree of teamwork, presentation style (slides? poster? activity?) or quality of delivery.
- Describe levels of proficiency for the assessment
Write down the different levels of proficiency you expect to see from your students. It might be numeric (e.g. 4, 3, 2, 1, 0) or it might be descriptive (e.g. Outstanding, Very Good, Satisfactory, Insufficient or Excellent, Good, Adequate, Inadequate). Ultimately, these levels will define the grades you give to students depending upon how well they meet the proficiency levels for each criteria. Pick the levels you want, add them across the top of your rubric, and move on.
- Fill-in the rest of the rubric
In this step you clearly yet succinctly state what a student will show or demonstrate for each criteria at each proficiency level (e.g. you fill in the boxes of your rubric). Be sure to use language that students understand, avoiding jargon and non-measurable terms (e.g. vague or unclear statements); using verbs from Blooms Taxonomy will help.
- Review and edit
Show the rubric to a colleague and ask them to review it for clarity. Provide the rubric to your students, ask them if everything is clear and make sure they use it when preparing for the assessment. Make changes as you see fit. Rubrics, like learning goals, are often works-in-progress and usually require tweaking after use. Be sure to take time to ensure the rubric is as clear as possible and take student feedback into account when you do. If you want to see examples of rubrics and rubric language, there are a lot out there...check out some examples from quantitative reasoning or simply Google "rubrics" and see what pops up!).
Rubric Examples from published InTeGrate Modules and Courses
Below are some examples from published InTeGrate Modules. Feel free to explore and model your own rubrics on the materials below.
Map Your Hazards! Assessing Hazards, Vulnerability, and Risk
- Unit 1 Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Oct19 14)
- Unit 2 Part A Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 20kB Oct19 14)
- Unit 2 Part B Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 22kB Oct19 14)
- Unit 3 Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 23kB Oct19 14)
Interactions between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity
- Unit 5 Summative Assessment and Rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 139kB Nov21 14)
Below are some links to additional resources on rubrics. Feel free to explore these for discussions on rubrics and examples we found useful.
- Carnegie Mellon's Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation has a good, succinct description of rubrics as well as a number examples you can download.
- Cornell's Center for Teaching Excellence also has some good descriptions and examples.
- Carleton College's Learning and Teaching Center has some resources on rubrics within their Quantitative Writing program.
- On The Cutting Edge has a number of geoscience examples.