6 advantages of rubrics for students and teachers and how to create rubrics

by Chris Wilson
Ph.D. Student, University of Florida

In this post, I’m sharing a summary of our discussion from my teaching presentation on evaluating student assignments using rubrics.

A rubric is an assessment tool that breaks an assignment into its component parts and defines specific criteria to evaluate a student’s level of performance.

A rubric consists of three basic elements:

  1. The traits or dimensions that identify the skills and knowledge required to complete the assignment.
  2. A scale that indicates the different levels of performance for the assignment.
  3. Descriptions of each trait at each level of performance. However, in some rubrics only a description of the highest level of achievement is included.

Rubrics offer a number of advantages to teachers and students:

  1. Rubrics allow busy professors to provide timely feedback to students.
  2. Rubrics prepare students to use teacher feedback to improve on future assignments by allowing them to compare their level of performance with the ideal.
  3. Rubrics encourage students to think critically about the quality of their own work.
  4. Rubrics facilitate communication with other graders and teachers, as well as student service personnel who may be helping students to complete their assignments.
  5. Rubrics allow teachers to evaluate their own teaching by revealing areas of strength and weakness in student assignments.
  6. Rubrics can level the playing field for students of all races, languages, etc., by fostering a dialogue about expectations between teachers and their students.

Rubrics are developed by working backwards from student learning objectives. Once an assignment has been identified that will accomplish student learning objectives, teachers need to identify the traits (i.e., skills and knowledge) of the assignment that will indicate whether or not the learning objectives were met. Next, teachers need to develop a scoring strategy that will be applied to each trait. Most sources say to use a two- to five-point scale. Last, teachers should fine tune the rubric by using it to evaluate actual student work. They should also have others try to use it and offer suggestions.

Here are some good sources on rubric use and development:

  • Andrade, H. G. (2005). Teaching with rubrics: The good, the bad, and the ugly. College Teaching, 53(1), 27-30.
  • Andrade, H. G. (2000). Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership, 57(5), 13–18.
  • Grading Rubrics, University of North Carolina: http://cfe.unc.edu/publications/fyc4.html
  • Mertler, Craig A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(25). Retrieved October 8, 2012 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=25 .
  • Moskal, Barbara M. (2000). Scoring rubrics: what, when and how?. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(3). Retrieved October 8, 2012 from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=3 .
  • Popham, J. W. 1997. What’s wrong—and what’s right—with rubrics. Educational Leadership, 55(2), 72–75.
  • Stevens, D. D. & Levi, A. J. (2003). Introduction to rubrics. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Walvoord, B.E. & Anderson, V.J. (1998). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

Chris Wilson is a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930).

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