How to Tell If Your Rubric Works
Rubrics are great tools for grading student work, but sometimes they don't work as well as they should. They may give you grades that seem too high or too low, or could not to apply to the project at hand. Failed rubrics are often a result of ambiguity; if you aren't clear about what you want out of a project, rubrics won't be good assessment tools. And it won't take you long to find out if your rubric works. After grading just a few projects, you'll get an idea of whether the grades reflect the work or not.
Writing and grading with a rubric takes time, which means it's never fun if a rubric fails. Luckily, there are some foolproof ways to ensure your rubric will get the job done before you invest too much time into it. Follow these simple tips to learn whether or not your rubric will pass the test.
1) Look for clarity
Rubrics never work if they're too vague to be of use. So the first tip for ensuring you develop a successful rubric is to set distinct guidelines for the project you will assign. Write down your objectives for the project along with the methods you hope students will use to reach a positive outcome. Make sure these project goals match what you've written into your rubric.
A good basic test for determining whether a rubric is clear enough is to check its length. For elementary projects, most rubrics should be at least half a page long; high school rubrics should be no less than one page in length. Anything less will not be long enough to clearly develop assessment guidelines.
This rule is along the same lines as editing rubrics for clarity. A generic rubric is much more likely to fail than a tailored one; take the time to make a new rubric for each assignment. If you like, you can use a basic rubric outline and fill it in accordingly as projects come up, just make sure you change your template enough to make it applicable to the current assignment.
3.) Test a sample project
The best way to determine if your rubric works is to test a sample project with it. This requires a little more time than the other techniques listed above, but is a guaranteed way to know if your rubric is effective. First, look over a student project and assign what you think would be a fair grade. Then, go through your rubric and grade according to the point values laid out there. If your initial assessment and the rubric's grade are within five points, then your rubric works fine. But if you end up with a grade that's way higher or lower than your estimate, you should probably revise your rubric. Most teachers can tell what grade a student should get just by glancing over a project; go with your gut instinct--if the rubric seems wrong, change it.
Most times, rubrics are helpful tools for accurately grading student work. But remember that a rubric is just that: a tool. Only you, the teacher, can give a grade. So use rubrics when they work for you, but be aware that they can have problems at times. Always approach a rubric with an open mind, remembering that you can change it if need be.
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