Becoming Better Teachers: Chapter 5 – Using Scoring Rubrics to Support Learning

This chapter describes rubrics and their many uses while providing several examples. The rubric examples range from highly developed and useful to flawed. The essential question for the chapter is “How Do We Communicate What We Mean by ‘Good’?”

A rubric is a rating scale that defines and differentiates different levels of performance. They are different from checklists (where attributes are present or absent), scoring sheets (where a specific attribute gains a specific amount of points), and rating scales (which look only for degrees of completeness and emphasis). “A rubric actually identifies all the needed attributes of quality or development in process, product, or performance and defines different levels for each of these attributes.”

Most classroom rubrics fall into two category types: holistic and analytic. Holistic rubrics assign a single score to an entire process, product, or performance, capturing the whole of the product instead of emphasizing its parts. Analytic rubrics break the product, process, or performance down into its critical attributes, or dimensions. Each attribute or dimension is then described separately with descriptors.

Rubrics are best used as tools for both instruction and assessment.  They are useful to teachers because they help to clarify what teachers want from students and convey to their students what they are looking for in ways that students can understand and use. They can still be useful to teachers even if they’re not shared with students, because the rubrics can help the teachers be clearer in articulating what they are looking for in an assignment.

Students benefit from rubrics because they can use them to identify exemplary work, and see where they are on the path towards creating exemplary work. Rubrics also help teachers justify and validate grades to other stakeholders like parents, support staff, and administrators.

Rubrics are best used when they depict processes, products, and performances that are found in the real world. Process can include cooperative learning, discussions, or critical thinking. Products can include research papers, lab reports, investigations, stories, poems, or art products.

All rubrics should have the following components: levels, dimensions, and descriptors. Levels indicate the range of performance measured from least developed to most developed, dimensions are the attributes used to judge what is being scored, and the descriptors refer to the language used to define the dimensions in the different levels.

Content, structure or form, and layout contribute to the quality of the rubric. Guidelines are presented for each of these. One guideline for content is that the rubric shows consistency from level to level meaning skills and indicators are present at each level. One guideline for rubric structure or form is that the levels should be sequenced in a continuum that supports instruction. Finally, one guideline for layout is that the rubric should be user friendly, including sufficient white space and using bullets or a grid or table format.

Several common problems of first draft rubrics are shared such as the task or project is inappropriate for a rubric, or the lowest level is described  primarily in terms of missing elements.

There are also several examples shared of how students can play a role in developing and using rubrics such as identifying attributes of quality for a product or process, using a rubric for self assessment, or helping to refine a rubric.

Developing a rubric by a teacher is described as having two stages, drafting and refining. A rubric is never perfect and can always be refined. Steps are provided for drafting a rubric, and refining a rubric. Essentially, a rubric should be always be a working or living document, never static.


~ by Craig Brewer on March 13, 2010.

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