With the transfer from face-to-face lectures to a more online environment during the 2020 pandemic, rubrics have become one of the best ways to help students understand what is expected from them, as well as providing a smart toolbox for higher education instructors.
The benefits of grading rubrics range from providing consistent feedback to students, to using a flexible instrument in many different parts of your courses, or to decreasing the overall grading time.
A definition of rubric can be that of a coherent set of criteria through which students’ work is evaluated from teachers or even by students themselves. In fact, maybe the greatest quality of rubrics is their flexibility. They can be created for teachers to evaluate students’ work, or created for students in order to evaluate their peers on different sets of criteria, like work criteria (quality, content, methods) or skills criteria (accountability, punctuality, attitude, teamwork spirit).
The classic rubric layout takes the form of a table. Each goal to achieve is clearly stated in each row, while different levels of expected performance forms the columns. Students benefit greatly from knowing what is expected from them, and especially from knowing what the criteria to evaluate their peers are. Thus, the principal goal of a rubric is to be as clear as possible.
While rubrics usually have quite a similar template among them –you can find some great examples here and here– their content differs depending on the type of assignment. On what a rubric should focus to help students evaluate each others’ Peer Reviews? Which elements should be included when students are being graded for their individual paper? And what if it was a group work? What should be included instead if it is a presentation?
This all boils down to the two main criteria a rubric can be composed by: work criteria and skills criteria.
Work criteria are those regarding more theoretical abilities and they are the “hard” part of a rubric. Here are some examples that a good rubric should include as work criteria.
Skills criteria can also be identified as “soft skills”. They represent the ability of students to work well in a team, respect deadlines, actively engage during the course, etc. These criteria are very useful to include in a rubric when students engage in Peer Reviews or have to evaluate other group members (for example using the Group Member Evaluation tool).
Here are some examples:
Presentations are a meaningful way to test both theoretical and practical skills. Teachers have the opportunity to see how students are able to not only search and categorize information, but also to deliver it to an audience.
If a presentation is due, some must-have in your rubric are:
An example of a presentation section for a rubric can be found here.
Rubrics are a versatile, organized, and reliable way to assess students and let students assess each other when needed. Knowing what it is required for a certain assignment is highly beneficial for them and instructors for many reasons: