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Much Ado About Rubrics

On September 1 we held our inaugural FLO workshop about rubrics, a three-hour experiential session that focused on three areas:

  1. A facilitator-led primer on rubrics
  2. Creating a rubric during independent development time
  3. A peer review where participants gave and received feedback on rubrics

Post by Helena Prins and Olaolu Adeleye

Our FLO facilitator, Jacquie Harrison from the School of Instructor Education at Vancouver Community College, spoke about the purpose of rubrics to help students measure themselves against required criteria. According to Jacquie, “Rubrics can be so useful as a means for validity and reliability of assessment, which is a reason in and of itself to use rubrics. Also, using rubrics can serve as a powerful learning experience for both teachers and students. Rubrics help teachers teach; they offer guidelines and help students learn within these.”

Rubrics can be both summative and cumulative. Depending on your purpose, there are several types of rubrics to consider. Jacquie highlighted three.

  • Analytic
    • Offer specific guidelines with measurable criteria
    • Sometimes limit creativity within an assignment
  • Holistic
    • Better for impressionistic grading with summative assessments 
    • Limit individual criteria
  • Single-point
    • Offer criteria for proficiency—not where students go above and beyond or where they need help
    • Use less language

We learned that one rubric is not better than another but that each offers a different way to assess depending on what and how you want to evaluate. Common themes that make a difference to learning that occurs with rubrics include the following:

  • You want your rubric to focus on the learning and not just the task completion. This means measuring what is supposed to be measured and looking at what really matters.
  • Consider what your weighting of criteria suggests to students; ensure your descriptors are discrete between levels, and ensure they are descriptive, not evaluative.
  • Consider language that is affirmative and not judgmental; in other words, describe what students do rather than what they don’t. Help students learn with positive and affirmative language.

If you are building a rubric for something that is high stakes, we suggest you collaborate with your colleagues. If it is an item that has less weight, welcome a process of iterating. 

Quick steps to create your own rubric.

  1. Define the purpose of the assignment/assessment.
  2. Decide what type of rubric you want to use.
  3. Define the criteria.
  4. Design the rating scale.
  5. Write descriptions for each level of the rating scale.
  6. Create your rubric!

You may find this Rubric Roadmap[PDF], designed by FLO facilitator Jacquie Harrison, helpful.

Wish you attended the session but missed it? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! You can listen to the captioned recording of the first part of the workshop. 


The featured image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

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