We spent a good amount of time last week during the Summer Institute on rubrics. Part of our goals for the Writing Initiative at PCCC is to develop a standard writing rubric that will be used for the writing-intensive classes and for our College Writing Exam. We also are developing a college-wide rubric for critical thinking and for information literacy. So, we have been working through committees to create those three rubrics and we began to "field test" them with the Institute audience.

In working on this the past few months, I went back to a web conference I did back in 2005 called "Rubrics in the Age of Accountability: Transparent Assessment in Support of Learning." I co-presented with Bonnie Mullinix (I was at NJIT then; she was at Monmouth University; both of us have moved) and the session was one in a series of NJEDge.Net Colloquia. There's still a video of that archived online and I took a look at it to see what has changed for me since then in my thinking about rubrics.

Rubrics are a really powerful tool for grading and assessment but I think I'm more concerned these days with them as guides to learning. Rubrics have pretty well been accepted across K-12 and higher education, and in corporate and government settings. Still, there are teachers and students who would ask what is a rubric, and why would you want to use one.

It's interesting that the origin of rubric is a word or section of text which is written or printed in red ink to highlight it. The term derives from the Latin: rubrica, meaning red ochre or red chalk and originates in Medieval illuminated manuscripts from the 13th century or earlier. In these, red letters were used to highlight initial capitals, section headings etc. That process was known as rubrication. Teachers certainly picked up on the use of red ink on student manuscripts.

In simple terms, a rubric shows how learners will be assessed and/or graded. In formal terms, taken from the glossary of Understanding Educational Measurement by Peter McDaniel (1994), " A scoring rubric is a set of ordered categories to which a given piece of work can be compared.

Scoring rubrics specify the qualities or processes that must be exhibited in order for a performance to be assigned a particular evaluative rating.

Rubrics are often used when groups are scoring responses in order to provide consistency in the assessment - examples: the high school AP essay test responses, placement tests for college freshman, qualifying performances for admission to programs etc.

The most effective way I have found to have people learn about rubrics is to show them a lot of examples, have them try using them, and mostly to have them create their own and test them out.

Since I have a lot of rubrics and rubric links collected, I thought I might point to some here for others to use. A Google search on "rubrics" produced over 2 million hits, so there should be no shortage of sites for you to explore. Here are a few links - some are sites with information, while others are actual copies of the rubric.

Having spent a good amount of time in secondary education, I'm much more open than a lot of my higher ed colleagues to using materials developed for K-12 and adapting them for my own purposes. I really wish we had more true K-20 crossover. Here are a few K-12 rubrics links that I think are relevant to higher ed.

  • California schools have adopted rubrics as one way to standardize the assessment of students and curriculum - examples from different disciplines and rubrics used for California content standards assessment
  • Kathy Schrock's website includes extensive rubric links in many subject areas.
  • Create Your Own Rubrics Online - RubiStar is one of many online tools to help the teacher who wants to use rubrics but does not have the time to develop them from scratch. Start with the tutorial (it includes information on changing categories, their headings and content). Register (it's free) with them so that you can save & edit what you create.


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