"But I worked all night on that report! How could you give me a D?" Rubrics provide teachers with an objective method for evaluating skills that don't lend themselves to objective assessment methods and they help answer the age-old question, "What did I do to deserve this grade?" Learn how rubrics can guide your students and support your assessments. Included: Three online tools for creating rubrics.
"But I worked all night on that report! How could you give me a D?" Have you lost track of the number of times you've heard a student ask that question or one like it? The problem of evaluating student performance in areas or activities that lack clear-cut "right or wrong" answers isn't a new one. It is, however, one that has become more widespread and more immediate with the surge in classroom technology and the resulting possibilities for project-based learning. Technology allows students to learn in exciting interactive ways, but it does not free teachers from their need to assess students' work using fair, objective, and justifiable methods.
According to the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, a rubric is "an authoritative rule, the title of a statute, a category, a commentary, or an editorial interpolation." As any teacher knows, however, a rubric is a scoring guide that describes criteria for student performance and differentiates among different levels of performance within those criteria. Because rubrics set forth specific criteria, define precise requirements for meeting those criteria, and often assign numerical scores to each level of performance, they provide teachers with an effective, objective method for evaluating skills that do not generally lend themselves to objective assessment methods. Rubrics simplify teacher assessment of student work and provide students, parents, and administrators with an answer to the age-old "Why did you give it this grade?" question. And, at their very best, rubrics provide students with standards and expectations they can use to evaluate their performance while completing the assignment.
There are thousands of Web sites that provide teachers with pre-made rubrics in any number of subject areas. Ultimately, however, the most useful rubrics are those you create yourself.
Although constructing your own rubrics can be tedious and time-consuming, a number of tools are available to help make the job easier and more reliable.
The simplest of those tools is probably the PBL (Project Based Learning) Checklists from www4teachers. This site provides free writing, presentation, multimedia, and science checklists at grade levels that include K-1, 2-4, 5-8, and 9-12. Teachers simply select a list of criteria for the desired area and grade level, check the specific criteria they want to assess (possibly adding criteria of their own), and click Submit. Voila! A semi-custom rubric that includes only the criteria selected!
The rubrics at this site are written in the first person and are primarily designed to be used by students for self-assessment, but they are also useful as quick assessment rubrics for short-term projects or activities.
For more involved multimedia projects, more advanced tools are required. David Warlick, an instructional technology consultant and the creator of Landmarks for Schools, one of the Internet's earliest educational Web sites, has developed a Rubric Builder that creates free customized Web-based rubrics.
"Constructing rubrics in HTML is challenging even for experienced Web coders," Warlick notes. "To facilitate rubric inclusion in teacher-created instructional Web sites for students, I created a Web-based application that teachers could use to define and create Web rubrics."
Dennis O'Connor, a Milken National Educator from Lake Tahoe, Nevada, told Education World, "I've used David Warlick's Rubric Builder to build materials for an online teacher training course and I list it as a resource for learners in my class. Rubrics define a teacher's objectives and guide a student's efforts. Warlick's site is a prime example of the Web's supplying valuable tools to the working teacher in the classroom."
William Young, a teacher at Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, agreed. "The format of this excellent tool makes it easy to set up an effective and clear rubric," he told Education World. "I recommend this to others and am even considering having students work on rubrics using this site as a guide!"
One of the most widely used rubric construction tools is Rubistar, a free tool that allows teachers to choose a template and create rubrics for their project-based learning activities.
Probably the most complete rubric construction tool available is Rubrix. With this tool, teachers can create 3-, 4-, or 5-level rubrics and align them to curriculum standards or to their own state's standards. In addition, automatic scoring and report features allow users to view each student's performance on each task or standard.
This tool isn't free; whether it's worth it or not depends on how many rubrics you create and how sophisticated you need them to be.
Whichever tool you decide to use, however, keep the following guidelines in mind for judging the rubric's validity and reliability. A good rubric should:
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