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Classroom Assessment Techniques
Scoring Rubrics

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Student Roles

  • I involve students in a dialogue about criteria that we use in any rubric. Students gain a keen sense of my expectations for assessment by explicitly understanding the criteria and by contributing to the modification of criteria in a rubric to enhance clarity.

  • Consider letting students develop class rubrics for certain assessments. When students understand and describe criteria for their own performance, they are often better at attaining those standards. My students developed the rubric for the poster displays of their laboratory research. To accomplish this, they walked around the biology department looking at the variety of posters displayed on the walls and then determined their own criteria for what makes a quality poster presentation. We collated this information and designed a rubric for content as well as format.

  • Students use rubrics when completing any assessment task for the course such as writing in class, writing on an exam, designing homework, completing and investigation, preparing a research paper.

    Faculty Roles

  • The critical factor for faculty to consider is that assessments must be linked to the goals of the course. For example, if the goal is for students to demonstrate their ability to design a testable hypothesis in a particular content area - asking students to actually write a testable hypothesis would provide meaningful feedback. The recurring question we must ask is, "Does this evidence convince us that students understand how to write a testable hypothesis?"

  • Include rubrics on your web site and in your course packs. Students should refer to rubrics while they are completing any assessment task.

  • Rubrics are dynamic and involve a major up-front investment of time.

  • You must provide students repeated instruction on how to use rubrics as well as how to achieve each of the criteria.

    Share with students samples of "exemplary", "adequate", "needs improvement" responses. Ask them to work in cooperative groups to analyze the strengths and weakness of the written responses, using the rubric as a guide. With practice, students learn to recognize and ultimately develop their own exemplary responses.

  • The advantage of rubrics is that you and the students have well defined pathways for gathering evidence that they have achieved the goals of the course. If either you or your students are dissatisfied with the evidence or criteria, the rubrics should be revised.

    Rubrics are scoring tools that enable me to assign points to students' assignments and tests. Students' accumulation of points determines their grade in the course. Each assignment, quiz, or test is weighted in terms of value in the overall course evaluation. For example, daily writing samples (quizzes) are worth 5 points, twice weekly, 15 weeks per semester; hence a student can earn a maximum of 75 points for daily performance. The pattern of students' performance is consistent from semester to semester. At the beginning of each semester, many students' responses are below college-level. As students begin to understand the criteria and practice writing, they attain college-level work or exemplary performance on short, five-point assignments or quizzes. A key strategy in promoting improvement by all students is peer review within their cooperative groups.

    The formative assessment I gather by using rubrics to evaluate students' responses during the course is valuable. In-class writing assignments give me feedback about the nature of the task and questions I ask students. The components of a question or task that provide meaningful responses are readily identifiable from the rubric and provide us insight into my students' strengths and weaknesses. I use these data to modify, change directions, or add components to our instructional design and strategies.

    Pros and Challenges

    • Time - rubric development requires time up front, but the payoff is in increased performance by the majority of students and which ultimately leads to less instructor time in assessment.
    • Criteria - qualitative scales are more difficult to define than quantitative scales.
    • Practice - both students and faculty need to practice and refine the use of rubrics for multiple types of assignments. Time to do this in class will affect "coverage."

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