Teaching with rubrics

Published On: January 25, 2020 09:48 AM NPT By: Rishi Ram Paudyal

Using rubric in teaching rewards you with satisfaction and saves your time, as you don’t have to be subjective in scoring

Use of rubrics is growing day by day due to its effectiveness in teaching. But most teachers in Nepal, I presume, have little idea about it. I wish to share some information about designing and implementing rubrics while teaching, not as an expert, but as a learner-teacher. 

A rubric is a guide for scoring or giving marks, it can be a guide for grading too. The rubric guide should tell clearly what is expected of students and how they will be marked or rated. A rubric can be applied to evaluate or assess a project, an essay, a performance, a presentation, artwork, a paper, a product and so on. As a matter of fact, you could design a rubric for almost anything, from simple to complex task. It may sound a bit weird but a girl and a boy could develop their own rubrics to choose the right partner. In this case, the girl and the boy both should think through what qualities or attributes they want to have in their life partner. 

A girl could set criteria from the best to the least. She could give #1 to the boy of her choice. This choice has to be well-defined as to what would make a boy her best choice. Now she could say or require a few things like: i) the boy has to have passed bachelor’s degree. ii) has to be from Kathmandu. iii) should be handsome iv) should have a car. v) should not have more than two sisters etc. These four descriptors are #1 choice for her. Here #1 is her ‘rating scale’ and the four descriptors are ‘criteria’. In a similar fashion, she could develop #2, #3, and # 4 rating scales with other criteria. As she develops a rubric, she will have to clearly mention whether #1 would indicate the best choice for her or #4 would be her best selection. In the same way, a boy can make his own rubrics to select a girl for his future life partner. 

 With regard to teaching, depending on what the teacher wants to rate or assess the students, they could design a rubric of their own. Factors like duration of time, place, and purpose may require different kinds of rubrics. A rubric can be made in consultation and involvement of students as well. Suppose you are teaching short story “The Golden Age.” You might ask students what they would like to be assessed on—characters, vocabulary or grammar. After you hear their input, you might put forward what you would like to assess them on. For example, you could say, “Great! Fair enough!’ I’m happy to include those in the criteria. But I would also like to rate you on ‘sentence construction’ and ‘linking words’ or ‘transition words’. When the students agree to your proposal, you can include both to create a rubric and you will share this with students so that they will be clear as to what they will be assessed on. The preparation of a rubric will demand some of your time, but after it is ready the same rubric which took away some of your time will reward you with satisfaction and save your time, as you won’t have to be subjective in scoring or worry about how to score students’ answers.

Holistic and analytic 
Mertler (2001) states that there are two types of rubrics: holistic and analytic. Nitko (2001) notes a holistic rubric requires the teacher to score the overall process or product as a whole, without judging the component parts separately. However, regarding the analytic rubrics Moscal (2000) and Nitko (2001) say that the teacher scores separate individual parts of the product or performance first, then sums the individual scores to obtain a total score. So while designing a rubric a teacher has to make up his mind first as to through which kind of rubrics they would like to assess.

Suskie (2009) as cited by Northern Virginia Community College lists the following advantages of scoring rubrics: Rubrics help measure higher-order skills or evaluate complex tasks, clarify vague, fuzzy goals, help students understand the teacher’s expectations or the expectations of the person/organization conducting the test, help students self-improve, can inspire better student performance, improve feedback to students, make scoring easier and faster, accurate, unbiased, and consistent, reduce arguments with students and improve feedback to faculty and staff by finding patterns in student achievement or student error and by providing diagnostic information about student strengths and weaknesses. 

Mertler (2001) mentions the following step-by-step process for designing scoring rubrics for classroom use: i) Re-examine the learning objectives to be addressed by the task. This allows you to match your scoring guide with your objectives and actual instruction.ii) Identify specific observable attributes that you want to see (as well as those you don’t want to see) your students demonstrate in their product, process, or performance. Specify the characteristics, skills, or behaviors that you will be looking for, as well as common mistakes you do not want to see. iii) Brainstorm characteristics that describe each attribute. Identify ways to describe above average, average, and below-average performance for each observable attribute identified in step 2.iv)For holistic rubrics, write thorough narrative descriptions for excellent work and poor work incorporating each attribute into the description. Describe the highest and lowest levels of performance combining the descriptors for all attributes. v) For analytic rubrics, write thorough narrative descriptions for excellent work and poor work for each individual attribute. Describe the highest and lowest levels of performance using the descriptors for each attribute separately.vi) For holistic rubrics, complete the rubric by describing other levels on the continuum that ranges from excellent to poor work for the collective attributes. Write descriptions for all intermediate levels of performance. vii) For analytic rubrics, complete the rubric by describing other levels on the continuum that ranges from excellent to poor work for each attribute. Write descriptions for all intermediate levels of performance for each attribute separately. viii) Collect samples of student work that exemplify each level. These will help you score in the future by serving as benchmarks. ix) Revise the rubric, as necessary. Be prepared to reflect on the effectiveness of the rubric and revise it prior to its next implementation.

With all this information, when are you going to design your own rubrics and implement them?  Give it a try.

The author is a freelance writer and life member of Nepal English Language Association(NELTA)
Email: rishirampaudyal@gmail.com​

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