Step 4: Create the Rubric
In Step 1 of creating an authentic assessment, you identified what you wanted your students to know and be able to do -- your standards.
In Step 2, you asked how students could demonstrate that they had met your standards. As a result, you developed authentic tasks they could perform.
In Step 3, you identified the characteristics of good performance on the authentic task -- the criteria.
Now, in Step 4, you will finish creating the authentic assessment by constructing a rubric to measure student performance on the task. To build the rubric, you will begin with the set of criteria you identified in Step 3. As mentioned before, keep the number of criteria manageable. You do not have to look for everything on every assessment.
Once you have identified the criteria you want to look for as indicators of good performance, you next decide whether to consider the criteria analytically or holistically. (See Rubrics for a description of these two types of rubrics.)
In an analytic rubric performance is judged separately for each criterion. Teachers assess how well students meet a criterion on a task, distinguishing between work that effectively meets the criterion and work that does not meet it. The next step in creating a rubric, then, is deciding how fine such a distinction should be made for each criterion. For example, if you are judging the amount of eye contact a presenter made with his/her audience that judgment could be as simple as did or did not make eye contact (two levels of performance), never, sometimes or always made eye contact (three levels), or never, rarely, sometimes, usually, or always made eye contact (five levels).
Generally, it is better to start small with fewer levels because it is usually harder to make more fine distinctions. For eye contact, I might begin with three levels such as never, sometimes and usually. Then if, in applying the rubric, I found that some students seemed to fall in between never and sometimes, and never or sometimes did not adequately describe the students' performance, I could add a fourth (e.g., rarely) and, possibly, a fifth level to the rubric.
In other words, there is some trial and error that must go on to arrive at the most appropriate number of levels for a criterion. (See the Rubric Workshop below to see more detailed decision-making involved in selecting levels of performance for a sample rubric.)Do I need to have the same number of levels of performance for each criterion within a rubric?
No. You could have five levels of performance for three criteria in a rubric, three levels for two other criteria, and four levels for another criterion, all within the same rubric. Rubrics are very flexible Alaskan Moose. There is no need to force an unnatural judgment of performance just to maintain standardization within the rubric. If one criterion is a simple either/or judgment and another criterion requires finer distinctions, then the rubric can reflect that variation.
Here are some examples of rubrics with varying levels of performance......Do I need to add descriptors to each level of performance?
No. Descriptors are recommended but not required in a rubric. As described in Rubrics, descriptors are the characteristics of behavior associated with specific levels of performance for specific criteria. For example, in the following portion of an elementary science rubric, the criteria are 1) observations are thorough, 2) predictions are reasonable, and 3) conclusions are based on observations. Labels (limited, acceptable, proficient) for the different levels of performance are also included. Under each label, for each criterion, a descriptor (in brown) is included to further explain what performance at that level looks like.
As you can imagine, students will be more certain what is expected to reach each level of performance on the rubric if descriptors are provided. Furthermore, the more detail a teacher provides about what good performance looks like on a task the better a student can approach the task. Teachers benefit as well when descriptors are included. A teacher is likely to be more objective and consistent when applying a descriptor such as "most observations are clear and detailed" than when applying a simple label such as "acceptable." Similarly, if more than one teacher is using the same rubric, the specificity of the descriptors increases the chances that multiple teachers will apply the rubric in a similar manner. When a rubric is applied more consistently and objectively it will lead to greater reliability and validity in the results.Assigning point values to performance on each criterion
As mentioned above, rubrics are very flexible tools. Just as the number of levels of performance can vary from criterion to criterion in an analytic rubric, points or value can be assigned to the rubric in a myriad of ways. For example, a teacher who creates a rubric might decide that certain criteria are more important to the overall performance on the task than other criteria. So, one or more criteria can be weighted more heavily when scoring the performance. For example, in a rubric for solo auditions, a teacher might consider five criteria: (how well students demonstrate) vocal tone, vocal technique, rhythm, diction and musicality. For this teacher, musicality might be the most important quality that she has stressed and is looking for in the audition. She might consider vocal technique to be less important than musicality but more important than the other criteria.So, she might give musicality and vocal technique more weight in her rubric. She can assign weights in different ways. Here is one common format:
Rubric 1: Solo Audition
In this case, placement in the 4-point level for vocal tone would earn the student four points for that criterion. But placement in the 4-point box for vocal technique would earn the student 8 points, and placement in the 4-point box for musicality would earn the student 12 points. The same weighting could also be displayed as follows:
Rubric 2: Solo Audition
In both examples, musicality is worth three times as many points as vocal tone, rhythm and diction, and vocal technique is worth twice as much as each of those criteria. Pick a format that works for you and/or your students. There is no "correct" format in the layout of rubrics. So, choose one or design one that meets your needs.Yes, but do I need equal intervals between the point values in a rubric?
No. Say it with me one more time -- rubrics are flexible tools. Shape them to fit your needs, not the other way around. In other words, points should be distributed across the levels of a rubric to best capture the value you assign to each level of performance. For example, points might be awarded on an oral presentation as follows:
Rubric 3: Oral Presentation
In other words, you might decide that at this point in the year you would be pleased if a presenter makes eye contact "sometimes," so you award that level of performance most of the points available. However, "sometimes" would not be as acceptable for level of volume or enthusiasm.
Here are some more examples of rubrics illustrating the flexibility of number of levels and value you assign each level.
Rubric 4: Oral Presentation
In the above rubric, you have decided to measure volume and enthusiasm at two levels -- never or usually -- whereas, you are considering eye contact and accuracy of summary across three levels. That is acceptable if that fits the type of judgments you want to make. Even though there are only two levels for volume and three levels for eye contact, you are awarding the same number of points for a judgment of "usually" for both criteria. However, you could vary that as well:
Rubric 5: Oral Presentation
In this case, you have decided to give less weight to volume and enthusiasm as well as to judge those criteria across fewer levels.
So, do not feel bound by any format constraints when constructing a rubric. The rubric should best capture what you value in performance on the authentic task. The more accurately your rubric captures what you want your students to know and be able to do the more valid the scores will be.
In a holistic rubric, a judgment of how well someone has performed on a task considers all the criteria together, or holistically, instead of separately as in an analytic rubric. Thus, each level of performance in a holistic rubric reflects behavior across all the criteria. For example, here is a holistic version of the oral presentation rubric above.
Rubric 6: Oral Presentation (Holistic)
An obvious, potential problem with applying the above rubric is that performance often does not fall neatly into categories such as mastery or proficiency. A student might always make eye contact, use appropriate volume regularly, occasionally show enthusiasm and include many errors in the summary. Where you put that student in the holistic rubric? Thus, it is recommended that the use of holistic rubrics be limited to situations when the teacher wants to:
Quick, holistic judgments are often made for homework problems or journal assignments. To allow the judgment to be quick and to reduce the problem illustrated in the above rubric of fitting the best category to the performance, the number of criteria should be limited. For example, here is a possible holistic rubric for grading homework problems.
Rubric 7: Homework Problems
Although this homework problem rubric only has two criteria and three levels of performance, it is not easy to write such a holistic rubric to accurately capture what an evaluator values and to cover all the possible combinations of student performance. For example, what if a student got all the answers correct on a problem assignment but did not show any work? The rubric covers that: the student would receive a (-) because "little or no work was shown." What if a student showed all the work but only got some of the answers correct? That student would receive a (+) according to the rubric. All such combinations are covered. But does giving a (+) for such work reflect what the teacher values? The above rubric is designed to give equal weight to correct answers and work shown. If that is not the teacher's intent then the rubric needs to be changed to fit the goals of the teacher.
All of this complexity with just two criteria -- imagine if a third criterion were added to the rubric. So, with holistic rubrics, limit the number of criteria considered, or consider using an analytic rubric.
As a final check on your rubric, you can do any or all of the following before applying it.
By the last suggestion I mean to imagine that a student had met specific levels of performance on each criterion (for an analytic rubric). Then ask yourself if that performance translates into the score that you think is appropriate. For example, on Rubric 3 above, imagine a student scores
That student would receive a score of 15 points out of a possible 20 points. Does 75% (15 out of 20) capture that performance for you? Perhaps you think a student should not receive that high of a score with only "sometimes" for the summary. You can adjust for that by increasing the weight you assign that criterion. Or, imagine a student apparently put a lot of work into the homework problems but got few of them correct. Do you think that student should receive some credit? Then you would need to adjust the holistic homework problem rubric above. In other words, it can be very helpful to play out a variety of performance combinations before you actually administer the rubric. It helps you see the forest through the trees.
Of course, you will never know if you really have a good rubric until you apply it. So, do not work to perfect the rubric before you administer it. Get it in good shape and then try it. Find out what needs to be modified and make the appropriate changes.
Okay, does that make sense? Are you ready to create a rubric of your own? Well, then come into my workshop and we will build one together. I just need you to wear these safety goggles. Regulations. Thanks.
(For those who might be "tabularly challenged" (i.e., you have trouble making tables in your word processor) or would just like someone else to make the rubric into a tabular format for you, there are websites where you enter the criteria and levels of performance and the site will produce the rubric for you.)
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Copyright 2016, Jon Mueller. Professor of Psychology, North Central College, Naperville, IL. Comments, questions or suggestions about this website should be sent to the author, Jon Mueller, at firstname.lastname@example.org.