Creating and using Rubrics

Effective rubrics can be real time savers for teacher, but an ineffective rubric can bog teachers down and actually make grading an assignment more difficult. There are a few key points for teachers to create and use effective rubrics.

1. Don’t invent the wheel. There are thousands of different rubrics in various books as well as online. Start by looking for a rubric that is most similar to what you want to use. If it appears that it will work as is, use it. If not, simply adapt this rubric to meet your requirements.

2. Don’t make it too overwhelming or complex. One mistake that teachers make is to include everything possible on the rubric. The result is a clumsy rubric that is a burden on the teacher causing increased grading time. These extensive rubrics are also overwhelming and discouraging to students. They appear to be too much nit-picking and will not win any favor with the students. Keep the rubric to around 5 categories at most.

3. Avoid rubrics that make the teacher translate to grades. The rubrics that take more time to use are the ones that teachers rank 1-5 on 5 categories and yet the assignment is worth 200 points. This then forces the teacher to create a grade translation for the grade book. This makes the rubric clumsy and another step that the teacher does not need to take. Give each section that is being evaluated the total number of points possible, rather than trying to transpose results into points for the grade book.

4. Checks and circles. One of the fastest rubrics is one that simply uses check marks. The teacher then can give a grade based on the number of check marks. Another easy method is simply circling the successful qualities or numbers. These will save teachers time. It is much faster to make a check mark or to circle than to write down individual scores.

5. Use a highlighter. Using a highlighter to mark a rubric can be a quick grading method. Then after highlighting the successful areas and comments, go back with a pen or pencil to score it. This can make rubric use more effective.

6. Let students in on the secret. One of the worst decisions is to not show the students the rubric in advance. In all fairness they should see exactly what the teacher is grading on from the beginning. The result is usually increased quality of the assignment as well as less complaints from students and parents.

7. Favor the students. Rubrics tend to favor the student. It allows for several components to the success of the project. Teachers tend to allow certain criteria to overshadow others. It is easy to lower the grade of a paper with poor spelling and grammar, but with a rubric it is easier to give the student credit for the area he or she is doing well. If a paper is overloaded with red marks, it all looks discouraging to a student. When a rubric is used, a student can see which areas were actually very good and can take some pride in those areas.

8. Keep comments short. A rubric is meant to give an objective assessment and to assist the teacher with this assessment. If the teacher gives an entire page of comments besides the rubric, it defeats the purpose. Limit additional comments to three. More than that will be time consuming and overwhelming to the student.

9. Keep the components positive. Make the areas of evaluation more about what the students do right than what they do wrong. Make it a way to earn points rather than taking points away. This helps the grading to appear positive to the students rather than more criticism.

10. Don’t overdo it. Not everything needs a rubric. Sometimes it is acceptable to just give students points without a rubric. Save the rubrics for really important assignments. If a rubric is used for everything, the students stop paying attention to them. Believe it or no, there is such a thing a rubric overload.

Rubrics can be a successful part of a teacher’s assessment arsenal. Choosing the correct components and usage can make grading and feedback an easier task that is rewarding to the students too.