Writing Assignments and Rubrics

A writing rubric articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria (what counts), and describing levels of quality. Although rubrics are most commonly use by teachers to evaluate student writing, many argue that they can serve another, more important, role as well: rubrics can serve as part of a formative assessment process that students employ during the process of writing. That is, rubrics can be used to teach as well as to evaluate.

In a recent article, “A Review of Rubric Use in Higher Education,” Reddy and Andrade report that students and instructors differ in the value they place on the purposes and use of rubrics: “Students frequently referred to them as serving the purposes of learning and achievement, while instructors focussed almost exclusively on the role of a rubric in quickly, objectively and accurately assigning grades.” The connection between rubric use and writing quality has been studied repeatedly, with results suggesting higher achievement and deeper learning by students who have rubrics to guide their work.

But the research cited by Reddy and Andrade also suggests that simply handing out a rubric does not have a positive impact on student writing: students must be taught to use a rubric for self-assessment  and peer assessments and revision in order to reap its benefits. In fact, some of the research demonstrates that active involvement of students in rubric development provides the biggest bang for the buck.

The web sites below capture some of the best practices for creating and using rubrics.

Creating Grading Rubrics for Writing Assignments: Establishing and specifying characteristics of success when an assignment is first distributed benefits both students and instructors. Creating grading rubrics is the typical way to do this. Receiving the grading criteria with the assignment enables students to write toward specific goals.

Designing Scoring Rubrics for Your Classroom: an article by Craig Mertler published in Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation

Authentic Assessment Toolkit Rubric addresses three important questions about rubrics: Should I use an analytic or holistic rubric? Why should I include multiple levels of performance? And how many levels of performance should I include in my rubric?

Rubrics for Assessment: a small  collection of rubrics for assessing portfolios, cooperative learning, research process/ report, PowerPoint, podcast, oral presentation, web page, blog, wiki, and other web 2.0 projects

Understanding Rubrics: A rubric is a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work, or “what counts,” and articulates gradations of quality for each criterion, by Heidi Andrade.

AAC&U VALUE Rubrics: information about and links to the American Association of Colleges and Universities 15 VALUE rubrics, which were intended for institutional-level use in evaluating and discussing student learning, not for grading.

Reddy, Y. Malini, and Heidi Andrade. “A Review of Rubric Use in Higher Education.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education. 35.4. July 2010, 435–448.

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