The Advantages of Rubrics: Part One in a Five-Part Series

Distribute an article that explains what rubrics are, gives an easy-to-understand example, and lists their advantages.
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Teaching Strategies:

The Advantages of Rubrics

Part one in a five-part series

What is a rubric?
Chocolate chip cookie rubric Why use rubrics? What is a rubric?
  • A rubric is a scoring guide that seeks to evaluate a student's performance based on the sum of a full range of criteria rather than a single numerical score.
  • A rubric is an authentic assessment tool used to measure students' work.
    • Authentic assessment is used to evaluate students' work by measuring the product according to real-life criteria. The same criteria used to judge a published author would be used to evaluate students' writing.
    • Although the same criteria are considered, expectations vary according to one's level of expertise. The performance level of a novice is expected be lower than that of an expert and would be reflected in different standards. For example, in evaluating a story, a first-grade author may not be expected to write a coherent paragraph to earn a high evaluation. A tenth grader would need to write coherent paragraphs in order to earn high marks.
  • A rubric is a working guide for students and teachers, usually handed out before the assignment begins in order to get students to think about the criteria on which their work will be judged.
  • A rubric enhances the quality of direct instruction.

Rubrics can be created for any content area including math, science, history, writing, foreign languages, drama, art, music, and even cooking! Once developed, they can be modified easily for various grade levels. The following rubric was created by a group of postgraduate education students at the University of San Francisco, but could be developed easily by a group of elementary students.

Chocolate chip cookie rubric

The cookie elements the students chose to judge were:

  • Number of chocolate chips
  • Texture
  • Color
  • Taste
  • Richness (flavor)
4 - Delicious:

Chocolate chip in every bite
Golden brown
Home-baked taste
Rich, creamy, high-fat flavor

3 - Good:

Chocolate chips in about 75 percent of the bites taken
Chewy in the middle, but crispy on the edges
Either brown from overcooking, or light from being 25 percent raw
Quality store-bought taste Medium fat content

2 - Needs Improvement:

Chocolate chips in 50 percent of the bites taken
Texture is either crispy/crunchy from overcooking or doesn't hold together because it is at least 50 percent uncooked
Either dark brown from overcooking or light from undercooking
Low-fat content

1 - Poor:

Too few or too many chocolate chips
Texture resembles a dog biscuit
Store-bought flavor with a preservative aftertaste – stale, hard, chalky Non-fat contents

Here's how the table looks:

  Delicious Good Needs Improvement Poor
Number of Chips Chocolate chip in every bite Chips in about 75% of bites Chocolate in 50% of bites Too few or too many chips
Texture Chewy Chewy in middle, crisp on edges Texture either crispy/crunchy or 50% uncooked Texture resembles a dog biscuit
Color Golden brown Either light from overcooking or light from being 25% raw Either dark brown from overcooking or light from undercooking Burned
Taste Home-baked taste Quality store-bought taste Tasteless Store-bought flavor, preservative aftertaste – stale, hard, chalky
Richness Rich, creamy, high-fat flavor Medium fat contents Low-fat contents Nonfat contents

Why use rubrics?

Many experts believe that rubrics improve students' end products and therefore increase learning. When teachers evaluate papers or projects, they know implicitly what makes a good final product and why. When students receive rubrics beforehand, they understand how they will be evaluated and can prepare accordingly. Developing a grid and making it available as a tool for students' use will provide the scaffolding necessary to improve the quality of their work and increase their knowledge.

In brief:
  • Prepare rubrics as guides students can use to build on current knowledge.
  • Consider rubrics as part of your planning time, not as an additional time commitment to your preparation.

Once a rubric is created, it can be used for a variety of activities. Reviewing, reconceptualizing, and revisiting the same concepts from different angles improves understanding of the lesson for students. An established rubric can be used or slightly modified and applied to many activities. For example, the standards for excellence in a writing rubric remain constant throughout the school year; what does change is students' competence and your teaching strategy. Because the essentials remain constant, it is not necessary to create a completely new rubric for every activity.

There are many advantages to using rubrics:
  • Teachers can increase the quality of their direct instruction by providing focus, emphasis, and attention to particular details as a model for students.
  • Students have explicit guidelines regarding teacher expectations.
  • Students can use rubrics as a tool to develop their abilities.
  • Teachers can reuse rubrics for various activities.

Rubrics: An Overview
Rubrics Part Two: Create an Original Rubric
Rubrics Part Three: Analytic vs. Holistic Rubrics
Rubrics Part Four: How to Weight Rubrics Rubrics Part Five: Student-Generated Rubrics

About the author

TeacherVision Staff

TeacherVision Editorial Staff

The TeacherVision editorial team is comprised of teachers, experts, and content professionals dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and relevant information in the teaching space.

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