November 30th, 2010

Rubrics: The Essentials


“Teaching with Rubrics: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.” What a great title and the article is equally as good. For a quick review, rubrics, as this author points out, are most simply lists of criteria and levels of quality. (p. 27) What makes them good, bad, and ugly? Here’s a list condensed from the article.

The Good

  • Rubrics help teachers clarify expectations and focus instruction.
  • Rubrics helps students understand the goal of an assignment, which means less time trying to figure out what the teacher wants.
  • Rubrics enable teachers to “provide individualized, constructive critique in a manageable time frame.” (p. 31)
  • Students can help teachers create rubrics and in the process learn about standards and associated quality issues.
  • Rubrics can let teachers assign more challenging work.
  • Rubrics keep teachers fair and unbiased in their grading.

The Bad

  • Rubrics are not entirely self-explanatory. Students, especially those unfamiliar with rubrics, need help understanding what they are and how they can be used.
  • Rubrics don’t replace good teaching. Students still need models, feedback, the chance to ask questions, opportunities to revise, and everything else teachers provide that rubrics don’t.
  • Rubrics don’t automatically improve self- and peer assessment. Students still need to be convinced that their feedback and the feedback they receive from others can expedite improvement.
  • Rubrics aren’t just scoring tools. “Rubrics used only to assign final grades represent not only a missed opportunity to teach but also a regrettable instance of the teacher-as-sole-judge-of-quality model that puts our students in a position of mindlessness and powerlessness.” (p. 29)

The Ugly

  • Rubrics are not valid, reliable, or fair automatically. What makes them so is their alignment with reasonable standards, and the curriculum being taught. “These concerns do not require us to perform complex statistical analyses but, rather, we simply worry enough about them to subject our rubrics to critique. Rubrics improve when we compare them to published standards, show them to another teacher, or ask a colleague to coscore some student work.” (p. 30)

Reference: Andrade, H. G. (2005). Teaching with rubrics: The good, the bad and the ugly. College Teaching, 53 (1), 27- 30.