Developing Rubrics

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Female teacher and student look over papers. Active learning strategies, such as problem-based and case-based learning (PBL/CBL), challenge teachers to assess mastery in a way that accurately reflects achievement and that is also acceptable and useful to students, parents, and colleagues. Rubrics are guides for assigning scores to alternative assessment products and knowledge achieved. Rubrics are not a form of assessment but are the criteria for making an evaluation. Rubrics encourage clear assessment targets and clear expectations. When a rubric is well defined, learners know exactly what is expected of them and how they may achieve a top grade (or why they haven’t achieved it). Most learners want to excel and will work hard if they believe there is an opportunity for success. They will exert more effort and produce more work to meet clearly expressed expectations for success.

Rubrics are sets of criteria or scoring guides that describe levels of performance or understanding. They provide students with expectations about what will be assessed, standards that need to be met, and information about where students are in mastering the topic concept in relation to where they need to be.

Rubrics are helpful to the teacher and the student. The teacher has clearly defined and objective means to evaluating student achievement and content mastery, grading is easier, and questions and concerns from students about how they will be graded on the assignment are drastically reduced. Students clearly know how they will be assessed and they have a better idea of the content and goals of the lesson.

Male teacher helps students working in a row on computers.Developing a rubric is a dynamic process. As the goals of instruction become clearer to the teacher, the ability to define ranges and levels of execution within the processes of the active learning experience will make the development of a rubric easier. Some teachers may require a “run through” before they are ready to finalize a rubric, but students should always know how they are going to be evaluated before they start the project.

You may need to revise the rubric for an activity every time you implement the lesson if your class changes in grade or ability level. As you know, you expect more from an accelerated class or a class that has had more science courses than a class with less background knowledge of the science activity topic. A rubric is not a “one rubric fits all” guide.

Make your rubric a very thoughtful exercise and barring any glaring gaps in your descriptions, stick with it. It can be very frustrating to students to have rubrics change in the middle of an activity (or worse yet, at the end) and they will consider any of your future rubrics with far less commitment if they don’t think you will actually use it or stick with it.

The information below has been provided by Donna Szpyrka and Ellyn B. Smith of Florida’s Statewide Systemic Initiative.

Guidelines for Developing a Rubric

  • Determine which concepts, skills, or performance standards you are assessing.
  • List the concepts and rewrite them into statements which reflect both cognitive and performance components.
  • Identify the most important concepts or skills being assessed in the task.
  • Develop clearly stated objectives.
  • On the basis of the purpose of the task, determine the number of points to be used for the rubric (example: 4-point scale or 6-point scale).
  • Starting with the desired performance, determine the description for each score remembering to use the importance of each element of the task or performance to determine the score or level of the rubric. (Good documentation in the description makes assigning scores for student work easier and clearly allows the student to know the expectations required.)
  • Compare student work to the rubric. Record the elements that caused you to assign a given rating to the work.
  • Revise the rubric descriptions based on performance elements reflected by the student work that you did not capture in your draft rubric.
  • Rethink your scale: Does a [ ]-point scale differentiate enough between types of student work to satisfy you?
  • Adjust the scale if necessary. Reassess student work and score it against the developing rubric.

 Sample Rubrics

Drawing Conclusions (Points):

  • 4 Draws a conclusion that is supported by the data and gives supporting evidence for the conclusion.
  • 2 Draws a conclusion that is supported by data, but fails to show any evidence for the conclusion.
  • 1 Draws a conclusion that is not supported by data.
  • 0 Fails to reach a conclusion.

Cooperative Learning (Points):

  • 4 The student actively listens to and values the opinion of others.
  • 3 The student actively listens to but it is not evident that he/she values the opinion of others.
  • 2 The student listens to but does not value the opinion of others. OR The student values the opinion of others but does not listen to them.
  • 0 The student does not listen to and does not value the opinion of others.

Product (Points):

  • 6 The product shows evidence that the student reached valid conclusions based on data analysis and displayed the results of the analysis in appropriate formats.
  • 4 The product shows evidence that the student reached valid conclusions based on data analysis but displayed the results of the analysis in inappropriate formats.
  • The product shows evidence that the student reached conclusions not based on data analysis and displayed the results of the analysis in appropriate formats. OR The product shows evidence that the student reached valid conclusions based on data analysis but lacked evidence of the analysis.
  • 0 The product shows no evidence of analysis

Note: Align Learning Objectives with rubric descriptions to be sure that they were met in student work. If an outcome is listed in Learning Objectives, it should be listed in an evaluation category in the rubric.

Adapted from the Center of Educational Technologies (Classroom of the Future) Exploring the Environment website: