The Wonderful World of Rubrics

As an education student, evaluating or assessing a student’s work is something that seems very daunting to me. A very helpful tool that I’ve encountered in my own education, as I’m sure many of you have over the years, is the rubric.

As an educator, sometimes I need a guide to help me focus what I am looking for in an assignment. It can be difficult to quantify something in, for example, an essay. Rubrics make grading a little easier in that it can save time as well as allow an educator to maintain fair guidelines and ensure that they are not changing their standards (or it can also allow for making changes if they see evidence for need over time!).  In that way, rubrics are a great way to help you as an educator plot out what you’re looking for and then assign point/grade values to those criteria.

So How Do I Create a Rubric?

1. Start early! A rubric should not be created a day before an assignment. The prime time to create a rubric is when you are lesson planning or creating a curriculum. It’s important to devote enough time to a rubric, just as you would a lesson, because you need time to edit and solidify key concepts or criteria.

2. I would start with a reflection. What do you want your students to learn from the assignment? What would you like them to accomplish? Make a list of those items!

3. Once you’ve made this list, think about what is most important. Is knowing an important date more important that higher level thinking like analyzing data? When you’ve created this hierarchy it will be much easier to complete the next step. (Don’t forget, you can edit this list! If it doesn’t seem concrete enough or you want to elaborate more based on an assignment description, you can! A rubric can be like a living, breathing document, it’s not set in stone until the students receive it!)

4. Decide on an overall point value for the assignment and then use your ranking to assign a percentage value to each item on your list. (To achieve a point value for each item, simple multiple the percentage of each item by the total point value for the assignment. Easy peasy!)

5. Create some sort of table for yourself. You can do this using computer software or even do it old school and draw it out at first. You want each of the things you listed to have a block. Think about how students can achieve full credit for each topic area. This block is where you’ll elaborate and list criteria.

6. Distribute to students! Or do you?

Should I give this rubric to students?

There is some debate over this. Some educators think that students should not get a rubric as they should not be working for any one particular grade (i.e. “I only have to do this well to get a B in the class.”).  However, I am a fan of giving out a rubric ahead of time. This allows students to gain better insight into how their work will be assessed. Once they’ve received feedback from an assignment, students can clearly see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. In addition, this can help students track their progress and see clear areas where work has improved and where they might want to spend more time in the future. It helps a student assess their own progress just as it helps an educator track a student’s process!

Rubrics and Sexuality

When thinking about sexuality education, you might ask yourself “How do I create a rubric for such a topic?” or even “What should a rubric include for this particular sexuality class? Is it even appropriate to have a rubric for certain content?”

Rubrics can certainly be used for a variety of assignments and subject matter! That’s the beauty of a rubric! One just has to truly think about the assignment you’re working on and what exactly you want students to gain from this exercise. While more reflective assignments like journal entries might seem impossible to create a rubric for, it has certainly been done before. More sensitive journal topics or other reflective assignments might require a little more work on your part in forming a rubric geared towards sexuality subject matter.

For example, in a behavioral foundations course, one might be challenged to write about your own moral, emotional, intellectual, and social responses to sexuality subject matter that is considered taboo, illegal, and/or a paraphilia. A rubric for that might include the following:

  • Identifies beliefs about this behavior or topic
  • Identifies where and/or when those beliefs were learned
  • Identifies at least 2 scholarly sources that challenge or support  beliefs and  frames them as they relate to individual’s perspective.
  • Using the literature, describes the implications of these emotional reactions in professional life
  • Identifies at least contrasting two schools of thought about this behavior as supported by the literature
  • Critically examines these contrasting schools of thought using aforementioned beliefs
  • Identifies how the relationships in individual’s life is influenced by this behavior
  • Examines at least two scholarly sources that speak to the social implications of engaging in this behavior.

Sample Rubrics

2 responses to “The Wonderful World of Rubrics

  1. This was a very helpful post about Rubrics and their reasons for existing. I have a love/hate relationship with the rubric. As a student, I love me a good rubric. As an educator, I find the rubric to be challenging. I find that students get nit picky about the points and don’t focus on the constructive criticism supporting the point deductions. Also, I know I am an easy grader and for better or worse, rubrics don’t allow for that. They are fair. I know they are a fair and reasonable way of grading. That being said, I wonder if there are rubrics out there that factor in learning disabilities when grading the quality of the writing.

  2. Although I am in school to be an educator, most of my life has been as a student. I really liked this post because it took me out of the student role and into the educator role to think about rubrics in a different way. I never thought about how rubrics help the educator maintain fair guidelines and stick to their standards when grading each student’s work. Whether you are grading the first paper or the last of 30, each paper will be graded the same way. As a student, rubrics help me stay on topic, but as an educator, I now understand how helpful this tool is!

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