Rubrics are a popular assessment tool for teachers interested in authentic assessment because well-written ones not only describe student achievement but also encourage students to strive to do better.  In order to be effective tools, rubrics need to clearly explain the characteristics of satisfactory work and then outline better and exemplary standards. Rubrics guide and support student achievement and can have categories describing ‘good’, ‘better’, ‘best’ achievement or ‘not meeting expectations’, ‘meets expectations’ or ‘exceeds expectation’s.

When used as an assessment tool, rubrics can communicate very clearly and succinctly to students what is expected of them. It takes the mystery out of assessment and shows students how to meet expectations for quality work. In using rubrics, students are supported in thinking and reflecting about their work habits as they complete the learning task and how they may or may no be effective in meeting the intended learning outcomes.

While there are several rubric design tools available on the Internet, designing a rubric with a class engages students in discussions about what quality work looks like and what the final product or performance should include. Students take pride and ownership in their work when they know that the educator and their peers value their opinions.

Heidi Goodrich describes this process for creating your own rubrics:

  1. Look at models: Show students examples of ‘good’ and ‘developing’ work. Identify the characteristics that make the good ones ‘good’ and the ‘developing’ ones incomplete.
  2. List criteria: Use the discussion of models to begin a list of what counts in quality work.
  3. Articulate gradations of quality: Describe the best and worst levels of quality, then fill in the middle levels based on your knowledge of common problems and the discussion of ‘developing’ work.
  4. Practice on models: Have students use the rubrics to evaluate the models you gave them in Step 1.
  5. Use self- and peer-assessment: Give students their task. As they work, stop them occasionally for self- and peer-assessment.
  6. Revise: Always give students time to revise their work based on the feedback they get in Step 5.
  7. Use teacher assessment: Use the same rubric students used to assess their work yourself.

One place to look when starting to use rubrics for assessment is the BC Performance Standards. These rubrics could easily be adapted for different learning tasks and reworded at a level that is more easily understood by students.

While it may feel counterintuitive to evaluate students using one set of criteria when they may be submitting different products or performances for assessment, it is important to maintain clarity of what the main goals, learning objectives, or essential questions on which students are being asked to demonstrate their learning and understanding. Rubrics support the UDL principle of allowing students choice in how they demonstrate their learning because they are flexible and help students focus their efforts in demonstrating their achievement of the outcomes.

There are several rubric generators online to guide the development of your own rubrics. Rubistar is one such site that may be of interest to you.

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