Rubrics

This is a first for me: A blog post reconstructed from text messages, but here goes:

A friend of mine at another university–for strict anonymity’s sake we’ll call him “Brian”–wrote this afternoon to ask whether I had any practical advice on developing rubrics for evaluating student writing. You can see an example of a rubric I use here; here’s the assignment it’s for).

Anyway, here are the things I told “Brian”:

  • Make the math, if there’s math (for example, if points are assigned, which convert to a grade), easy to do in a hurry!
  • Make sure that the rubric is aligned to the learning outcomes for the assignment.  Your rubric doesn’t have to capture everything–just what you’re working on in this paper.
  • Make sure the rubric produces results you can live with.  Try it out on some papers before you commit to using it with students.  (Maybe it produces scores that seem too low/high, or doesn’t differentiate well between average and strong papers.)
  • Build credibility for the rubric by norming with students.  Give them a real (anonymized!) paper, a copy of the rubric, and grade it collectively in class.  Have them discuss their grading process, and explain your own.
  • Whenever possible, give the students the rubric in advance.  It gives organized students the opportunity to prioritize their revisions in the most productive way.

That’s my list!  But I’m really not a rubric expert, just some guy who’s been using them increasingly for a year or so.  What are your suggestions for designing a good rubric?

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One Response to Rubrics

  1. Mel says:

    the only thing I’d add to your excellent list is that I found it helpful to use rubrics at first with smaller assignments rather than big, important ones — same goes for the flow of the semester (use rubrics early on with a tiny assignment to help studnets understand). And also, don’t obsess too much about finetuning the math or the rubric items — ultimately I’ve found the B+ student winds up with a B+ whether my rubric has 4 items or 14.

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