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A case for rubrics: Four student benefits and teacher tips for use

Guest post by Moodlerooms – Elon’s Moodle partner.
By: Laura Lea Rand, M.Ed., Moodlerooms Instructional Designer and Trainer

As every educator knows, a rubric is a scoring tool typically used for formative assessments. Rubrics can be especially helpful when used for assessments that may be subjective in nature. They allow for standardized scoring according to specified criteria, making grading simpler for teachers and more transparent to the student receiving the grade.

When we think about how well a student completes a specific task, we don’t usually think of the performance as being “right” or “wrong,” like we would an answer to a multiple choice question. Instead, we rate the student’s performance along a continuum of indicators, such as “Excellent, Good, Basic, Poor.” Rubrics assist the teacher in marking specific points of judgment along a continuum, so that students are consistently judged upon how well they have met realistic and suitable expectations.

As teachers, we certainly benefit from the use of rubrics in that they save us time and provide consistency in grading. However, we often forget that our students also see wonderful benefits from the use of rubrics as well. In today’s post, I want to share four reasons to include rubrics as a major course grading method, and how you as a teacher can ensure that rubrics live up to “all the hype.”

#1 – Rubrics guide students in performance and teach them that learning is their responsibility.

Rubrics share with students what is expected of them before they begin a specific task, thus directing them to learn what is necessary to be successful (and most often more what than is needed). In this way, rubrics help students set learning goals and take the responsibility for their learning into their own hands. Knowing what skills make up a desired performance encourage students to strive to achieve it.

Teacher Tip: Allow your students to participate in the design of rubrics you will grade them by, and empower them to become intrinsically motivated learners. Consider using the Moodle Forum activity to ask students what they think they should have learned from a specific topic, and how you can grade their learning fairly and accurately.

#2 – Rubrics encourage students to become self-reflective.

Rubrics created for the purposes of peer- and self-assessment assist students in developing their personal ability to judge excellence, or the lack thereof, in their work and others’. By providing rubrics to students before an assignment is due, they can review their work to see how it measures up against the rubric, and make adjustments if needed.

Teacher Tip: Make sure that rubrics are always accessible to students before they receive actual grading from you. Including all rubrics in the original course syllabus, other than those that may be student-created, is a sure fire way to make sure of this. Consider using the Moodle Workshop activity as a long-term project of some type in your course. This activity has built in areas for self-, peer-, and teacher-assessment, as well as the ability to upload examples for practice assessment.

#3 – Rubrics take away the guessing game.

One of the most common questions asked by students is, “How can I get an ‘A’ in this course?” Rubrics eliminate the guessing game for how to earn an ‘A’ because they outline the grading objectives and guidelines, and how to achieve mastery per criteria. When evaluating students’ work with a rubric, there is little to no room for bias. Rubrics assure students that there is equality in grading and standardized expectations.

Teacher Tip: When writing rubrics for your course, consider first writing a general rubric that includes always assessed items, no matter what the actual goal of the assignment. These may be criteria such as punctuality, professionalism, grammar, and clarity. In this way, students can focus more on task-specific criteria after “mastering” general criteria. Make sure to include well-written general criteria, to make mastery possible. Use Moodle’s Rubrics to create consistent criteria and guidelines, such as in the example above.

#4 – Rubrics praise students’ strengths and support their weaknesses.

As a student, it’s hard to improve upon a specific skill unless you know you are under-performing in that area. Rubrics provide visual representations to students, depicting the exact level they are currently achieving (per criteria). This makes strengths and weaknesses easy to see, allowing students to know what areas they need develop further at a glance. Through rubrics, students are able to monitor their progress on specific criteria over a given period of instruction or time.

Teacher Tip: Rubrics show students the exact performance level they currently fall in, but you as a teacher should make sure to include adequate feedback to help students understand how to increase performance in lower scoring areas. Moodle’s Rubric feature allows for personalized feedback per criteria and overall for each rubric. Use these areas to add information tailored to the student’s specific weakness.

Image by Flickr user ProfessorTang / Creative Commons licensed BY-NC-SA 2.0

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