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Defining A Rubric What are they?

Defining A Rubric A rubric is a tool that has the potential for helping a teacher formatively assess a student performance during the teaching/learning process by clearly establishing the standards and quality expectations. It assists in customizing the student feedback: what a student has done well; what weaknesses exist; and how or what might be done to correct or improve the performance. It assists students in the fair and honest opportunity for self assessment of their work and allows them the opportunity to set, monitor, and achieve their personal learning goals. It assists parents in understanding the tasks and the standards by which their child's growth and progress will be measured. Rubrics also provide the teacher and district leaders with the option to later summatively evaluate their students’ performances with a higher degree of consistency. Information obtained from the summative use of rubrics can be utilized to report student progress toward the agreed upon learning goals or outcomes.

Making Sense of the Definition Two concepts are imperative if one is to make any sense of the above definition. One must look closely at two words that are often used, but seldom clearly, universally understood.


From the French word Evaluation assire, meaning aside, to set beside and guide, it is the process of identifying what's right, what's wrong, and how to fix it. For the purpose of depicting and “coaching� the growth of an individual...where they were when they began, to where they are able to develop or advance.

From the French word evaluer, to value, it is the process of sorting, selecting, and labeling such as grading, ranking, etc. For the purpose of depicting and reporting progress of the individual against external standards, norms and/or the performance of age mates.

How to Design a Rubic  

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When Do I Use a Rubric? When creating a rubric, the answer to the question, "How do I design one?" may be found by utilizing a decision making grid entitled "Rubric Design Principles: Guide." This guide allows educators to create rubrics to match of the purpose/users of the rubric to five (5) design principles. The principles are: Word Choice Visual Appeal Student’s Role "Fix" Correctives "Why" Statements They appear vertically on the left side of the grid. Explanations of each are included. The purpose/users are listed across the top of the grid. Designing a rubric begins by selecting the purpose and users of the rubric from the top of the grid. Once determined, the design principles may be addressed by paying attention to the indicators and suggestions listed vertically in the column beneath the selected heading. For example, if a teacher wants to create a rubric that will be shared with students for a performance assessment task (PAT), conscious attention should be paid to the suggestions for the five design principles in the column under "Great Potential for Learner and Teacher." But, if the rubric for the PAT is being designed to insure inter-rater reliability between two teachers who will be scoring student work and it is not intended to be shared with the learners, then adhering to the suggestions listed under "Great Potential for Teachers To Be Consistent" may be adequate.

Two Teacher Tips for Designing More User-Friendly Rubrics

The "Rubric Design Principles Guide" models two tips invented to make using rubrics effective and efficient. One is the use of "skinny" columns. They are thin columns drawn between the vertical columns. When used in a rubric, the skinny columns allow a teacher to honor a student’s improvement from an initial review to subsequent reviews when the improvement was not adequate to advance the student to the next level of competency.

A teacher could place pluses (+) in the thin columns, hopefully maintaining the student’s motivation toward continued improvement, rather than creating a picture that no improvement had occurred.

Two Teacher Tips for Designing More User-Friendly Rubrics Con’t 

The second tip modeled on the grid that could be incorporated on a rubric, is the wide column entitled "Legend." It was invented to encourage students ranking at the highest proficiency to continue to look for ways to make their work outstanding.

It is often called the "Legend in Your Own Time" column. It has no indicators listed. It is simply an open invitation for students to extend themselves beyond the stated expectations/requirements.

Two Teacher Tips for Designing More User-Friendly Rubrics Con’t

Two Teacher Tips for Designing More User-Friendly Rubrics Con’t ď Ž

Both skinny columns and "Legend in Your Own Time" tips were developed to take rubrics beyond merely a grading tool and make it a coaching tool. The two tips were invented to encourage the learner to use a continuous improvement mindset rather than merely asking, "What can I do to get a grade?" Rubrics are like training wheels to a learner. They should be used to help assist a learner in becoming self-reliant, self-directed and selfassessing. If used effectively, rubrics develop a strong sense of student ownership in their achievement.

Rubrics in the Classroom: When to Use

When Do I Use a Rubric? Rubrics are expensive in terms of the time and energy they require to design and implement. The decision to use a rubric must be weighed carefully. Rubrics are best suited for situations where a wide range of variation exists between what’s considered very proficient and what’s considered not yet proficient. Teachers have found rubrics to be every useful in providing guidance and feedback to students where skills and processes are the targets being monitored. Examples of skills or processes that adapt well to being rubriced include: the writing process, the application of the method of scientific inquiry, thinking skills (i.e. constructing support, compare, problem solving, etc.), and life-long learner skills (i.e. collaborative worker, quality producer, etc.).

Rubrics in the Classroom: When to Use Con’t

Methods other than rubrics are more conducive to monitoring quantities or amounts of factual information known by a learner. These methods may include tests, quizzes, checklists, etc. Helpful Hint: Don’t rubric everything. Some teachers reserve rubrics for processes and skills in which students are having difficulty demonstrating a high degree of proficiency. Others use rubrics to scaffold new performance tasks or introduce new skills and processes. However, or whenever, the decision is made to use a rubric, best results usually occur when students are involved in the work of designing a rubric, as well as in the feedback loop and in the reporting-out to stakeholders process, (i.e., parents, school board members, community, etc.).



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