There’s no doubt that good rubrics help student learning and make marking less of a chore. It’s also true that a badly designed rubric can make learning and marking more difficult for everyone. For more see Rubrics and marking guides at Assessment and feedback.
So, how do you create a great rubric? Here’s five tips from VU’s Academic Support and Development team to get the most out of your rubrics.
- Put your time into developing rubrics and not into marking with them!
Developing a great rubric takes time and involves trial and error (see point 4 below). Good rubrics provide clear distinctions between criteria levels, are clearly worded, and allow you to evaluate the level of understanding your students have demonstrated in their assignments. If you find you are having difficulty deciding which criteria level a piece of student work falls under your rubric needs more work!
- Consider student learning
What do you want your students to learn from completing your assessment? Focus your rubric criteria on helping students grasp your unit’s fundamental concepts. In addition, think about the steps your students need to take to improve their academic development. Referencing is a good example of an area where students often struggle. When writing criteria for referencing think about what your discipline area values, and what you hope students will achieve. Consider whether you are happy to assign top marks for a correctly formatted reference, or if appropriately using a reference as academic evidence is a more valuable developmental skill. Your response may vary for year level, discipline area, and the intent of each assignment.
- Use specific language
Keep your language clear and to the point. A rubric is a tool for evaluating whether students demonstrate an understanding of specific concepts or are able to demonstrate the use of a particular skill. Rubrics work best when each criterion focuses on evaluating a discrete concept or skill. When writing criterion descriptors take care to describe what you expect to see demonstrated at each level, rather than focusing on what is not there.
The best way to ensure the effectiveness of your rubrics is to use them! If you have trouble deciding whether student work falls under one criterion level or another you may need to rewrite a more specific descriptor. Before semester begins you should have the opportunity to swap and trial rubrics with other members of your teaching team. Academic staff from ASD are also available to assist you in clarifying your descriptors and writing criteria that specifically addresses the development of academic skills and literacy.
- Use your rubric as a learning tool
Now that you’ve spent time developing criteria, why not get the most out of your rubrics by using them in class as learning tools? Here’s just a few examples of ways that VU lecturers are using rubrics in class right now:
- Get students to evaluate exemplars of assignments or examples of student work. This strategy is particularly useful for explaining how to structure academic writing and for encouraging writing with clarity.
- Use a rubric to evaluate some of your unit readings. Evaluating expert writing can help students understand how references are used, make judgements about whether or not arguments are supported, and increase awareness of academic writing styles.
Ask students to construct their own class rubrics for peer evaluations. This is a great strategy for presentations and group work. With your guidance, students can work together to identify the critical features of good performance and create relevant descriptors for a class rubric.