Guide to Scoring Rubrics

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March 21st, 2013 7 Comments

What is a scoring rubric?

How do you know if your students have learned something you’ve taught in the classroom? Evaluating the learning process is no simple task. Since learning is a dynamic and complex process, teachers need a diverse set of tools for measuring the progress of his/her students. One of those tools is the scoring rubric.

A scoring rubric is a standard of performance for a defined population. It is a pre-determined set of goals and objectives on which to base an evaluation. In the Higher Education Report, S.M. Brookhart describes a scoring rubric as, “Descriptive scoring schemes that are developed by teachers or other evaluators to guide the analysis of the products or processes of students’ efforts.”

This article will explore in depth the different types of scoring rubrics, how to make one yourself, as well as an analysis into how scoring rubrics enhance learning.

 
 

Types of Scoring Rubrics

Despite the overwhelming number of scoring rubrics you can find on the Internet and in various textbooks and curriculum guides, most rubrics fall into one of two categories: Analytic or holistic scoring rubrics.

Analytic scoring rubrics

Analytic rubrics attempt to break down the final product or goal into measurable components and parts. In other words, your student has a project or assignment and you use an analytic scoring rubric to evaluate all the pieces of the project. Analytic rubrics typically use numbers to measure quality. Let’s take the example below.

Student Assignment: Write a one-page paper on your summer vacation.

The rubric might break down the evaluation process into three parts- content of the paper, grammar and mechanics, and organization of ideas. For each of these components, numbers would be assigned.

(1) Needs improvement, (2) Developing, (3) Goal, (4) Above average, (5) Excellent

The rubric also explains what exactly each of those numbers mean. So a student might have a score like this:

Content (3) – Ideas were developed and thought out. Examples were given.
Grammar (4) – The paper was free of all spelling and grammar errors. There were only a few awkward sentences.
Organization (2) – Each idea was not separated out into paragraphs. Author jumped around and confused the reader.

With an analytic scoring rubric, the student and teacher can see more clearly what areas need work and what areas are mastered. It is far more descriptive than a simple A, B, or C grade.

Holistic scoring rubrics

Whereas analytic rubrics break down the assignment into measurable pieces, a holistic scoring rubric evaluates the work as a whole. In the above example, a holistic rubric would look like this:

Student Assignment: Write a one-page paper on your summer vacation.

(1) Needs improvement: The story is not clearly organized, grammar errors make it difficult to understand, and content is lacking.

(2) Developing: The student has a grasp on the assignment but needs to spend more time organizing thoughts, adding details, and fixing errors.

(3) Goal: The student has completely the paper using good content, correct, grammar, and a logical organization of ideas.

(4) Above average: The story is full of great content, organized well, and free from spelling and grammar errors.

(5) Excellent: The student went above and beyond, adding rich detail to his/her story. The content is interesting and organized well. Thoughts are well described. Grammar and mechanics are flawless.

With this rubric, the piece is evaluated as a whole.

General or task-specific?

Rubrics can be either. General rubrics are used across multiple assignments. Once you have developed a general rubric, you can use it to measure different subjects and lessons. Task-specific rubrics are designed to evaluate one specific assignment. Using these guidelines, you can categorize your rubrics into one of the following categories:

General holistic scoring rubric

General analytic scoring rubric

Task-specific analytic scoring rubric

Task-specific holistic scoring rubric

General holistic rubrics have advantages and disadvantages. If you spend the time to create a solid scoring rubric, you won’t have to do it again. Students will quickly grasp the “meaning” of each number- therefore understanding what needs improving from assignment to assignment. The value of each number is clear. The disadvantage to this type of rubric is that different subjects may need more specific scoring instructions. With the same rubric used over and over again, your or your students might get stuck in a rut – always using the same score.

General analytic scoring rubrics are difficult to create. Since an analytic rubric is designed to break an assignment into pieces, the best bet is to create a general analytic rubric for a particular subject (like one for writing, one for math, one for reading, etc.). Each subject has similar “measurables” – something that would be difficult to create across different disciplines.

Task-specific analytic scoring rubrics are the most comprehensive and detailed. While they provide a great source of feedback to the student and teacher, it does require more work upfront to create. Creating a task-specific analytic rubric for each assignment would be tremendously tedious. Save these types of rubrics for projects that are large and need to be broken down into parts and pieces for your students to manage and understand.

Task-specific holistic rubrics are like the “balanced” middle of the road rubric. They are designed for a particular assignment, but evaluate it as a whole rather than in parts.

References:

http://condor.depaul.edu/tla/Assessment/TypesRubrics.html

http://www.utexas.edu/academic/ctl/assessment/iar/students/report/rubrics-types.php

Creating a Scoring Rubric

Why is it important to create scoring rubrics for your students? Well for one, it helps to spell out clearly what you expect from them in terms of quality, content, and effort. It gives you an objective criterion on which to base a grade, eliminating a lot of the “It’s not fair!” mentality that can creep in when grades seem arbitrary. It allows your students the opportunity to understand more comprehensively your expectations of performance. A scoring rubric can also be used for peer-to-peer evaluation. This is another way to engage your students in the learning process.

  1. Decide what kind of rubric you are going to make- general or task specific, and then analytic or holistic.
  2. Use a Word processing software or Excel to make a chart.
  3. If you are creating an analytic scoring rubric, divide the project or assignment up into parts (for example, a math project might have the categories – creativity, understanding of mathematical concepts, correct answers, presentation, effort, etc.).
  4. Place these categories in one column down the left side of the table or chart.
  5. Create a scoring method. You can use numbers (i.e. 1-5) and attach words to each number (like 1 is poor, 2 is below average, 3 is average, 4 is above average, and 5 is excellent). If it is a task-specific analytic rubric, you can be even more descriptive.
  6. Put these scores along the top of the chart in one row. Each score should represent a column.
  7. Now you have to write up a short blurb for each category and score. Here is an example of a task-specific analytic scoring rubric for a math project.

Category

1 – Poor

2 – Below Average

3 – Average

4 – Above Average

5 – Excellent

Effort

Student’s work shows little preparation, creativity or effort. Lots of errors and sloppy handwriting.

Student put for minimal effort. Has a few errors and could have added more to the presentation.

Student gave effort to the project. Met all the expectations. Didn’t go above and beyond.

Student spent a lot of time working to make sure the presentation was well done. Got help and asked for feedback.

Student went above and beyond the assignment. Did extra research and work.

Understanding of concepts

Didn’t incorporate concepts into project. Misunderstood the ideas and principles.

Understood a few of the concepts, but still left out pieces and parts of the assignment.

Student understood concepts and completed all the tasks in the assignment.

Student understood the concepts and did more than what was expected of him/her.

Student mastered the concepts and even added more to the principles.

Correct answers to problems

Most or all of the answers to each problem were incorrect.

Half of the problems were incorrect.

Student got most of the problems correct with only a few errors.

Student got every problem correct.

Student got every problem correct, including the bonus work.

Presentation

Presentation was rushed, sloppy, and too short. Lacked effort and/or visual tools.

Presentation was short and lacking creativity. Some visuals were used.

Presentation was correct length. Student used visuals.

Presentation was well done, with visuals, interaction with the class, and comprehensive.

Presentation was creative, excellently done, using visuals and props.

 

The student should be given the scoring rubric before the project begins. This way, he/she understands exactly what you are grading on and how you will assess performance. Once you’ve graded the presentation with the rubric, you can add up the scores and take the average. When using a 1-5 model, it’s easy to assign 1=F, 2=D, 3=C, 4=B, 5=A.

You can also leave an extra column to write in comments about each category. Whenever possible, write criterion that are measurable. Use specifics. For general rubrics, this is a bit more challenging, but you can get some idea by perusing online rubrics to see what kind of language other educators use.

Using Descriptive Gradations

The example above gives you some generic terms to use (like poor, average, etc.), but depending on the task, other words might work better to describe your expectations and criteria. Here are some options to try:

  1. Beginning, developing, accomplished, exemplary
  2. No, maybe, yes
  3. Missing, unclear, clear, thorough
  4. Below expectations, basic, proficient, outstanding
  5. Never, rarely, sometimes, often, always
  6. Novice, apprentice, proficient, master
  7. Lead, bronze, silver, gold
  8. Byte, kilobyte, megabyte, gigabyte
  9. Adagio, andante, moderato, allegro

Using Your Students To Create Rubrics

It is crucial that you use language your students can understand. For younger children, you might even use images (of a smiley to sad face for example) to help them understand the expectations. When creating a task-specific analytic rubric, start by drawing the rubric on a whiteboard or poster and have them come up with the language to express what is required.

This writing rubric below is a simplified example that a teacher might use for an elementary assignment.

Criteria

Complete

Unsure

Missing

Beginning

I had a beginning to my story.

I don’t know if I had a beginning.

My story started without a beginning.

Character

I mentioned my character’s name and described him/her.

I mentioned my character’s name but didn’t describe him/her

I forgot to introduce my character.

Problem

I wrote about the character’s problem.

I don’t know if the character has a story problem.

The character doesn’t have a story problem.

Ending

I wrote about what happened to the character after the problem.

I wrote an ending but didn’t tell people what happened to the character.

I didn’t write an ending.

 

Weighted Rubrics

Sometimes you want one part of the rubric to count more than others. A simple way to do this is to assign percentages to each category. In the example below (the math scoring rubric), the understanding of concepts and the correct answers categories are going to weigh more heavily. For purposes of our example, let’s assign criterion two and three 40% of the project.

Criterion

1 – Poor

2 – Below Average

3 – Average

4 – Above Average

5 – Excellent

1. Effort 10%

Student’s work shows little preparation, creativity or effort. Lots of errors and sloppy handwriting.

Student put for minimal effort. Has a few errors and could have added more to the presentation.

Student gave effort to the project. Met all the expectations. Didn’t go above and beyond.

Student spent a lot of time working to make sure the presentation was well done. Got help and asked for feedback.

Student went above and beyond the assignment. Did extra research and work.

2. Understanding of concepts 40%

Didn’t incorporate concepts into project. Misunderstood the ideas and principles.

Understood a few of the concepts, but still left out pieces and parts of the assignment.

Student understood concepts and completed all the tasks in the assignment.

Student understood the concepts and did more than what was expected of him/her.

Student mastered the concepts and even added more to the principles.

3. Correct answers to problems 40%

Most or all of the answers to each problem were incorrect.

Half of the problems were incorrect.

Student got most of the problems correct with only a few errors.

Student got every problem correct.

Student got every problem correct, including the bonus work.

4. Presentation 10%

Presentation was rushed, sloppy, and too short. Lacked effort and/or visual tools.

Presentation was short and lacking creativity. Some visuals were used.

Presentation was correct length. Student used visuals.

Presentation was well done, with visuals, interaction with the class, and comprehensive.

Presentation was creative, excellently done, using visuals and props.

 

So in this case, the student got a 2 in criteria 1, a 4 in criteria 2, a 3 in criteria 3, and a 2 in criteria 4. If you did not weight the grade, the average score would equal 2.2 or a D. However with a weighted rubric, the most important parts of the grade should account for more. Out of a possible 100%, each number should be counted according to the percentage given. Your formula would look like this:

2 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 4 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 2 = 32 10 = 3.2 or a C.

(Criterion 2 and 3 are each counted four times, and 1 and 4 are counted once – equally ten points or 1.0)

Looking at this rubric, it would seem that a C is a better (or more accurate) grade for this student. They completed the problems and understood the concepts, but didn’t spend a lot of time and energy in the presentation part of it.

Sites For Scoring Rubric Resources

If you are short on time or simply need a little help getting started, the following list will help you find excellent already-made scoring rubrics. There are also sites that can help you create them as well!

Rubric generators

  1. iRubric – Free rubric building tools plus options for analyzing data and sharing rubrics with other teachers around the world.
  2. Teach-nology– A comprehensive list of rubric building tools arranged by subject.
  3. Digi-tales – Create a scoring rubric for evaluating media projects.
  4. The Canadian Teacher – A rubric builder that allows you to build weighted rubrics, checklists, and rating scales.
  5. Rubistar– Register for an account and have access to a variety of rubric tools, plus the ability to edit, save, and access online.
  6. Scholastic – A simple and fast rubric tool. Fill in the fields and it will arrange it in a matrix for you.

Premade scoring rubrics

  1. Exemplars – Standard rubrics for math, science, reading, and writing. They offer some student evaluation rubrics as well.
  2. Teacher Rubrics for Secondary and College – This website is a list of rubrics that one faculty member has made available for other teachers.
  3. University of Wisconsin – Rubrics for wikis, web projects, PowerPoint, oral presentations, as well as general subject areas like math and writing.
  4. Teacher planet – Rubrics are organized by subject and level. They also offer a rubric generator too.
  5. Kathy Schrock – One of the largest lists of common core rubrics.

Subscription scoring rubric websites

  1. Rubrix – Designed for school systems and HR professionals. Full set of tools, mobile functions, and more.
  2. rGrade – Comprehensive assessment management system.

How Do Scoring Rubrics Enhance Learning?

First and foremost, a scoring rubric makes it easy for your students to understand your expectations as the teacher. When an assignment is given without a rubric, there are a lot of assumptions that can be made about the quality, quantity, and project outcome that can result in rabbit trails and a poor grade. Rubrics spell everything out in an easy digestible format.

  1. Rubrics help educators’ grade projects fairly.
  2. Rubrics speed up the grading process with clearly outlined goals.
  3. Rubrics allow the student to use the scoring sheet to grade someone else’s work.
  4. Rubrics are an easy way for parents to understand the final grade on the assignment.
  5. Rubrics help to define the goal and reason for the assignment or project.
  6. Rubrics keep students on track during the course of the assignment.
  7. Rubrics give more specific feedback so that the student can see where his/her strengths and weaknesses lie.
  8. Rubrics are a tool to help the student dig deeper into an assignment.
  9. Rubrics are easy to understand and can help give instructions about the project.
  10. Rubrics outline various skill sets that students should be aware of during the assignment.
  11. Rubrics allow students to check their work throughout the project for instant monitoring and feedback.
  12. Rubrics give teachers data for future planning and curriculum design.
  13. Rubrics ensure that different teachers will all grade a project using the same criterion and goals.

So Are There Any Disadvantages To Scoring Rubrics?

Even though rubrics are a great classroom tool, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. For one, scoring rubrics can take a long time to create – especially if they are task-specific and you spend time thinking through each criterion carefully. A teacher’s work needs to be balanced between instruction, mentorship, and feedback. Try not to get caught up in creating a custom rubric for every single assignment. Don’t be afraid to use rubrics that are already made up for you.

  1. Watch out for rubrics that are poorly designed. If the criteria are not thought out well, then your students will be heading in the wrong direction.
  2. Too many rubrics can cause creativity to dwindle. If your students are always performing to the written standard, they may be less likely to think outside the box.
  3. Rubrics may cause your most intelligent students to underperform. Once in a while, let their imaginations determine how high or far they can go in an assignment. It may be further than you dreamed.
  4. Poor descriptions will render a scoring rubric useless. Make your assessments as specific as possible.
  5. Rubrics can overwhelm students if the criterion is lengthy. Maybe breaking the project into parts with “mini” rubrics would be more helpful.
  6. Some educators say that turning rubric scores into grades is unhelpful. Scoring rubrics should be the extent of the evaluation, not trying to turn it into an A, B, or C.

Ultimately, balance is key. Scoring rubrics are a great asset to both teachers and students, as long as the classroom isn’t wholly designed to simply meet a goal. We all know that learning is far more dynamic and creativity than what can fit inside a little box.

7 Responses

  1. […] on lesson plans and rubrics: There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every time you teach. Work together to build cohesive […]

  2. […] on lesson plans and rubrics: There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every time you teach. Work together to build cohesive […]

  3. […] on lesson plans and rubrics: There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every time you teach. Work together to build […]

  4. […] Communicate your grading strategy. And I don’t just mean calculating percentages… Read more about developing scoring rubrics. […]

  5. Peter Evans says:

    You might want to have a look at Rubric-O-Matic which lets you create detailed weighted analytic rubrics in Microsoft Word which then automatically calculate the mark, percentage and grade. See the video at http://emarkingassistant.com/rubric-o-matic

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