Better Rubrics Guide Student Learning

Rubric - Vague or Standards-Based

I have seen many pre-service students’ rubric and I have seen many classroom teachers’ rubrics. Many are not educationally meaningful.

Some common problems in analytic rubrics (each part gets a score instead of one score for the whole rubric which is holistic):

They are not standards-based. Most rubrics focus on an activity, not standards.

Categories are so general that it is difficult to know how to rate a student who only does some parts of it. Example: The student will write a five paragraph essay in which the topic is well defined, there are three distinct reasons, there is strong supporting evidence for each reason, and there are clear transitions.

Stage or level descriptions are vague. “Shows proficiency” means nothing to a student, neither does “above average performance.” What are the specific traits of each level? (Many online rubric makers are horrible in this part of a rubric.) Can a student read these and know exactly where he/she is and why?
Criteria is not specific enough to be measured. “Has few errors”- does that mean twenty, ten, five, or two? “Includes many examples”- Again, does that mean twenty, ten, five, or two. State exactly what you mean (If you do not know, then eliminate it!)

Non-Weighted categories do not emphasize their importance. Are all categories worth the same points? For example, on the NYS Writing rubric, all categories have equal weight; your ideas only count as much as appropriate vocabulary or grammar or organization. Expressing good ideas is the point of writing. Weight the most important elements.

Academic wording. Instead, word it in students’ language. Avoid educational jargon but do include critical standards-based vocabulary such as “compare.”

Not including columns to the right for peer assessment comments and student’s self assessment comments. Students can use the columns to have others’ assess their work and for themselves. When they can revisit the comments, they can be sure of the areas in which to improve.

You can use a good rubric as a pre and post test!

Do your rubrics real guide students in knowing exactly what is expected of them? Can students constantly self-assess themselves and be confident of their ratings? Get out your word processed rubrics and revise them to be powerful learning tools.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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1 Response to “Better Rubrics Guide Student Learning”



  1. 1 Self-Assessing « Inquiring Minds Want to Grow Trackback on January 6, 2008 at 1:13 am

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