Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Writing Rubrics

As I mentioned in last week’s post on rubrics, a rubric is an assessment tool that helps score and outline performance expectations.  Using a rubric helps by:

  • verbalizing expectations for performance
  • standardizing these expectations
  • providing benchmarks for assessment
  • opening conversations about expectations and desired outcomes

An effective rubric needs to provide an accurate assessment of what it is that you want to measure.  So, in addition to using a template, I wanted to discuss some things to consider when you create or modify a rubric.  To start, I want to build on a previous blog post by Phil Gaiser about rubrics.  From his site, is an illustration of a typical rubric:

As you can see, a rubric is broken down into four parts:

  • task description – specifies what is being evaluated
  • dimensions – these list the standards, criteria, or components that you will be evaluating
  • scale – these rank from highest score to lowest.  They can be both numeric values (in terms of point values), or descriptors (excellent, good, average, below average, poor)
  • descriptions of dimensions – these explicitly detail the standards for performance

To create a rubric, consider the following questions:

  1. What are you going to assess? (Task)
  2. What are the characteristics of what you are going to assess? (Dimensions)
  3. What do the characteristics of the highest scoring standards look like? (scale and descriptions)
  4. What do the characteristics of the lowest scoring standards look like? (scale and descriptions)

For example, let’s think about an instructor assessment.  One of the dimensions that I assessed was attendance.  For descriptions, I would use the following:

  • 4 = 100% Attendance, instructor arrived before the start of class each and every time
  • 3 = 100% Attendance, instructor arrived before or at the start of class.
  • 2 = 95% Attendance, instructor arrived at the start of class
  • 1 = Less than 95% attendance and/or instructor was late to class on at least one occasion

Now, you will note that the descriptions reflect a very high standard for instructor attendance.  This was because as soon as an instructor was late to one class, they would receive a written warning – attendance was very important for me, because when an instructor showed up late, it was also a bad example to students.  However, if the rubric had not been given and discussed ahead of time, it could be quite possible that an instructor would think that a 90% attendance would have been acceptable, even though, in doing so, they would score very poorly based on the rubric.

This is another reason why giving rubrics to employees ahead of time can be very useful, because it can prevent misunderstandings.  Here are some more tips to help you:

  • Start with a template to give you an idea of the dimensions that you may want to use.  Draw from several examples to get a feel for what you want to assess.
  • Scale accordingly.  If attendance is not as important as organization, then make sure that organization is given more points than attendance.
  • Make sure your descriptions are measurable:
    • Quantitative descriptions (ie. attended 3 out of 4 meetings) are easier to measure than qualitative (ie. positive attitude) measurements.
    • Details matter
  • Adjust when needed, ask for others to help you.  Especially when trying a rubric for the first time, I find that it may take a few tweaks to improve how things are being measured.
  • It is important to train people accordingly!  Even though two supervisors may use the same rubric, how that rubric is interpreted may be different.  Hence, it is important to “calibrate” yourself to the rubric – and to make sure you are evaluating consistently.  Discussions on what you expect to see can often clarify any ambiguities.
  • Include those that are being evaluated in the developmental process, so that both you and your students or employees are on the same page when it comes to assessment.

For more information, you can go to:

How to rubrics – This document provides a detailed list of questions that can help guide you in the developmental process

Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. J. (2011). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Stylus Publishing, LLC.



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