Module Ten: Rubrics in a Nutshell
What Is a Rubric?
Rubrics A commonly accepted definition of a rubric is a document that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria and laying out the relative levels for performance evaluation (Andrade & Du, 2005).

Most rubrics are composed of three essential components: evaluation criteria, scoring strategy, and quality definitions (Figure 1.) (Reddy, 2007).

  • Evaluation Criteria: A breakdown of the skills/knowledge that the students must try to achieve (dimensions) through the completion of the assignment. For example, the criteria for an oral presentation could be include “Organization,” “Communication,” “Use of visual,” and “Presentation skills.”
  • Scoring Strategy: Various scale levels of performance evaluation based solely on the quality definitions. Some instructors use the labels to describe the scale level of performance, such as “Excellent,” ”Competent,” and “Needs Work.” Others use numbers (1, 2, 3) or grades (A, B, C).
  • Quality Definitions: A detailed explanation of what a student must do to demonstrate an evaluation criterion for specific level of performance. These definitions are also called “descriptors.”

For example, you should specify the differences between “Excellent,” “Competent,” and “Needs Work.” 

Figure1. The framework of a generic rubric with the three essential components

Figure1. The framework of a generic rubric with the three essential components

Value of Rubrics

Some instructors wonder if they need a rubric for grading assignments.  If you have experienced at least one of the following signs, as noted in “Introduction to Rubrics” by Steven and Levi (2005), the use of rubric is suitable for you.

  • You feel you take much too long to grade all your students’ assignments.
  • You have graded all your papers and worry that the scores from the last ones are slightly different from those from the first.

  • You work with colleagues and collaborate on designing the same assignments for program courses, yet you wonder if your grading scales are different.
  • You’ve sometimes been disappointed by whole assignments because all or most of your class turned out to be unaware of academic expectations so basic that you neglected to mention them (such as the need for citations or page numbers).

Rubrics are popular with both students and instructors because they are a means of communicating expectations for an assignment, providing focused feedback on works in progress, and grading final products.  They are an effective tool in the teaching and learning process. 

Both students and instructors can benefit from using rubrics. Not only will rubrics enhance the learning experience for both, but also it makes the entire process more efficient, thereby allowing for more time for learning inside and outside the classroom. The bullet points below features the advantages of rubrics for students and instructors in more detail, and the possible synergies that may develop if implemented.       

How Do Rubrics Facilitate Student Learning?
  • Increase and enhance the learning experience through better and more timely feedback
  • Increase motivation to reach those higher standards because of clear expectations
  • Provide an easier way to monitor own work, which in turn increases metacognition
  • Enables the practice of organizational skills
  • Improves communication with tutors, writing center, peers when additional help is needed
How Do Rubrics Improve Instructor Teaching?
  • Provide more consistency and efficiency in grading since ambiguity is mitigated through clearly defined quality definitions
  • Decreases the number of student questions because of the greater clarity in the assignments
  • Enables instructors to quickly and accurately pinpoint students when they are troubled with an assignment and refine instructors’ teaching skills (Stevens and Levi, 2005)
How Should Rubrics Be Used?
  • Either include the rubric as a part of assignment information or hand it out with the assignment itself.
  • Return the graded rubric with the student’s assignment as constructive feedback.
  • Use the results of the graded rubric to improve your instruction.
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