"Rubric" is the term applied to the most detailed and comprehensive of these assessment guides. In simple terms, a rubric shows how learners will be assessed and/or graded. In other words, a rubric provides a clear guide as to how "what learners do" in a course will be assessed.
Rubrics have many strengths:
- Complex products or behaviors can be examined efficiently.
- Developing a rubric helps to precisely define faculty expectations.
- Well-trained reviewers apply the same criteria and standards, so rubrics are useful for assessments involving multiple reviewers.
- Summaries of results can reveal patterns of student strengths and areas of concern.
- Rubrics are criterion-referenced, rather than norm-referenced. Raters ask, "Did the student meet the criteria for level 5 of the rubric?" rather than "How well did this student do compared to other students?" This is more compatible with cooperative and collaborative learning environments than competitive grading schemes and is essential when using rubrics for program assessment because you want to learn how well students have met your standards.
- Ratings can be done by students to assess their own work, or they can be done by others, such as peers, fieldwork supervisions, or faculty.
Developing a Rubric
It is often easier to adapt a rubric that someone else has created, but if you are starting from scratch, here are some steps that might make the task easier:
- Identify what you are assessing (e.g., critical thinking).
- Identify the characteristics of what you are assessing (e.g., appropriate use of evidence, recognition of logical fallacies).
- Describe the best work you could expect using these characteristics. This describes the top category.
- Describe the worst acceptable product using these characteristics. This describes the lowest acceptable category.
- Describe an unacceptable product. This describes the lowest category.
- Develop descriptions of intermediate-level products and assign them to intermediate categories. You might develop a scale that runs from 1 to 5 (unacceptable, marginal, acceptable, good, outstanding), 1 to 3 (novice, competent, exemplary), or any other set that is meaningful.
- Ask colleagues who were not involved in the rubric's development to apply it to some products or behaviors and revise as needed to eliminate ambiguities.