Build effective rubrics in just five steps| THE Campus Learn, Share, Connect

Assessment is an ongoing challenge that requires different strategies, techniques and instruments to assess learning and strengthen students’ ownership of their learning processes. Rubrics stand out as effective instruments due to their potential to evaluate the fulfillment of objectives and the development of competencies. However, their use largely depends on the ability to design them effectively. So, in this article, we will show you how.

What are rubrics, and how do we design an effective one?

Rubrics are tables that include a set of criteria for assessing the quality of a student’s work. They establish levels of performance, as well as descriptions for what those levels look like. In our experience, the design of effective rubrics can be summarised in the following phases:

1. Select the criteria

First, it is essential that you identify the learning objectives or competences of the activity. From there, define three to five learning criteria that allow you to assess whether these objectives or competences are met. Finally, determine the formal criteria to evaluate the professional-academic quality of the work. Some examples of these criteria are writing, formatting and the use of bibliographical references.

2. Determine the weight of each criterion (optional)

Some rubrics are qualitative only, but if you wish to provide a score, we recommend distributing the total value of the activity among the learning criteria only. This will focus students’ attention on the objectives/competences.

That being said, we recognize that formal criteria are also very important. In fact, because of their relevance to the professional profile, we suggest placing them as a requirement or subtracting points if they are not met. For example, one point will be deducted from the student’s final score for each grammatical error.

There are several tools you can use for this process, such as Quick Rubric or Rubric Maker. Both offer interactive templates that allow you to automate the score calculation for each level and download the rubrics to share.

3. Establish meaningful performance levels

Although you might choose to assign a score, we recommend that the title of your levels always be qualitative, for example Ideal/Good/Emerging, or you could even incorporate a touch of gamification with levels such as Veteran/Pro/Rookie. Then, place them in the rubric from highest to lowest and guide students to read the highest level first.

4. Describe what each level looks like

This is perhaps the most enriching step. However, you must create descriptions that provide as many specific details as you can – and make them as objective as possible.

To help students take ownership of the evaluation process, avoid descriptions in the third person and instead describe the task elements. For inspiration and help, we suggest visiting sites such as Rubistar and iRubricwhere you will find several rubrics by category, which you can also download and adapt to the needs of your class.

5. Evaluate the rubric

Finally, assess the instrument’s quality with your peers’ support and using pilot tests. In addition, we suggest developing a self-assessment instrument based on the steps above. This should include carrying out a checklist to identify: if the rubric assesses all desired learning objectives or competences; if formal criteria are considered a requirement and not part of the grade; if the performance levels are meaningfully named and distinguished from each other; and if the descriptions provide useful and accessible guidance on what is expected. Also, at this stage, we recommend you double check that the instructions you provide to students will help guide them to meet each level.

Final thoughts

In general, the implementation of rubrics helps improve the educational process. We recommend using them due to their potential for focusing students’ attention on what they should attend to, facilitating objective and meaningful feedback and encouraging students’ self-management and self-evaluation.

However, it should be noted that all of this depends on good implementation. To conclude, we recommend you present the rubric to students in the form of an introduction, demonstrate its use through examples and group readings, and organize individual sessions in which students use the rubric to self-evaluate with the teacher’s support.

Ileana Alejandra Ochoa Arias and José Wbaldo Rivera Nevarez are instructional designers, educational innovation and digital learning, at Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *