Purposes of rubrics
As discussed earlier, there are many types of rubrics and many purposes a rubric may serve (Muhammad, Lebar & Mokshein, 2018). Rather than trying to provide insight to all the kinds of rubrics and all their purposes, this guide focusses on developing understanding of the value of rubrics and how they may be used to:
- help students determine how to achieve a desired grade
- support staff when marking students
- help students understand how they acquired the grade they received.
Although the development of rubrics can be time consuming, once completed a well-designed rubric, which is discussed with students alongside the assessment instructions and provided to them before they begin work on an assessment can save students’ frustration and time in understanding what is required. Rubrics also save academic time in marking, providing feedback and responding to questions about the assessment and how it was graded.
Help students determine how to achieve a desired grade
For students to achieve a desired grade, they need to know the criteria and judgements which will be used to determine their levels of achievement (or grades). A carefully crafted rubric will provide a rich source of information to the student, indicating how failing and exemplary grades compare, as well as the gradations between these extremes. Rubrics can therefore provide useful information to students about what they need to include as they develop their responses to an assessment. The example rubric provided below demonstrate how students might see various grades differentiated and determine what they need to include. A well-designed rubric should therefore reduce questions about what is expected, saving staff and students time and confusion.
Support staff when marking students
Just as rubrics make transparent the criteria and judgements which will be used to determine different levels of achievement and how to attain them, the same information is also made clear to those marking assessments. Rubrics therefore provide a way to support the marking process and allow less variation across grades (especially where different markers are assessing different student submissions). Reducing marker variation leads to less student confusion and increases assessment validity.
Help students understand how they acquired the grade they received
Providing both students and marking staff with transparent grading criteria and standardised, consistent feedback should ensure there is less confusion about how a grade is determined. Standardised feedback helps students understand academic expectations (across different areas of study) and allows them to see how they acquired a grade thus supporting the development of assessment literacy in students.
Different approaches to developing rubrics
According to Orrell (2020, p.3) “higher education courses are responsible for developing student thinking and reasoning so that they leave higher education functioning at a higher level of thinking than at that which they entered.” Therefore, it is useful to provide students with a guide (rubric) that allows them to assess how well they have met specific criteria linked to learning outcomes. Rubrics can support learning by providing students with information about both what they have learned and how well they have learned it. Once they become more astute at using rubrics, students will be able to judge their own work and identify their own gaps in learning.
There are many approaches to the development of rubrics. The approaches include:
- providing a potential mark or grade value against the standards/ levels (or not)
- indicating percentages against the criteria (or not)
- providing both a mark or grade value and percentage
- indicating different levels of detail in relation to standards or levels (Muhammad, Lebar & Mokshein, 2018)
- direction taken by standards/ levels (left to right or right to left) may differ
- developing a holistic or analytical rubric
There are different views regarding the direction the standards/ levels take. Many argue that starting with the lowest grade on the left and increasing to the highest grade on the right is a more logical presentation (as indicated in both Figure 1 and Table 1). However, as indicated in Figure 2, others suggest that placing the highest possible grade on the left next to criteria allows students to immediately see how to achieve the highest grade.