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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Scoring Rubrics

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Diane Ebert-May
Department of Plant Biology
Michigan State University



Diane Ebert-May

"...[First] when I began teaching a large introductory biology course (600 students) I knew that my multiple choice tests were not providing me the kinds of data I wanted about my students' thinking... Second, I believed that my students needed to learn how to write and speak to explain themselves in the sciences as well as every other facet of their education, and it was my responsibility to assist all of them in this process. On the other hand, I needed a reality check. How would I find time to evaluate 600 writing samples, especially if I asked students to practice writing/speaking more than once throughout the semester? So I stumbled upon the term "rubric"..."



WHY USE THE RUBRICS?
Has a student ever said to you regarding an assignment, "But, I didn't know what you wanted!" or "Why did her paper get an 'A' and mine a 'C?'" Students must understand the goals we expect them to achieve in course assignments, and importantly, the criteria we use to determine how well they have achieved those goals. Rubrics provide a readily accessible way of communicating and developing our goals with students and the criteria we use to discern how well students have reached them.


WHAT IS A RUBRIC?
Rubrics (or "scoring tools") are a way of describing evaluation criteria (or "grading standards") based on the expected outcomes and performances of students. Typically, rubrics are used in scoring or grading written assignments or oral presentations; however, they may be used to score any form of student performance. Each rubric consists of a set of scoring criteria and point values associated with these criteria. In most rubrics the criteria are grouped into categories so the instructor and the student can discriminate among the categories by level of performance. In classroom use, the rubric provides an "objective" external standard against which student performance may be compared


WHAT IS INVOLVED?

Instructor Preparation Time: Medium to High.
Preparing Your Students: Continuous; but students catch on fairly quickly.
Class Time: Variable. As students use rubrics, they become better writers and oral presenters; hence the time instructors spend evaluating students' work is reduced.
Disciplines: All.
Class Size: All. Rubrics are easy to use in small classes, and are particularly useful in large classes to facilitate scoring large numbers of written or oral assignments
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: None.
Individual or Group Involvement: Both.
Analyzing Results: The level of analysis depends on the instructor's intended goal of the assessment task and the type of data desired about students' performance. For detailed analysis of students' responses, each section of the rubric can be scored independently then totaled. For a holistic analysis of students' responses, all sections of the rubric can be blended and an overall score assigned.
Other Things to Consider: Rubrics must be readily available to students before they begin an assignment or written test. Posting rubrics on the web and including them in the course pack for in-class writing promotes their usefulness.

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