A Beginner's Guide to Effective Rubric Assessments

Successful classroom management requires skillful time management. Of the many time-consuming tasks that teachers tackle throughout the day, grading can be among the most daunting. Teachers must assess in so many ways, and so often, that it’s important to have a tool to streamline the process and maintain consistency. Rubrics can achieve this goal and more. Let’s take a closer look at how to use rubrics in the classroom.

1. Eliminate the grading guesswork.

A rubric is a specific and clear set of criteria describing levels of performance and providing descriptions, expectations, and examples showing the requirements to achieve each level. If created effectively, anyone could take a completed assignment, compare it to the rubric, and come up with a grade very close to what the teacher would have.

Grading doesn’t just use up a lot of time, it can also cause a great deal of anxiety among students and parents, and that often comes back to the teacher. Rubrics set expectations for students and help parents understand their child’s performance. If questions or concerns arise, rubrics guarantee that teachers have a tangible tool to justify their assessment. When emotions of parents or students are heightened, clear and objective responses are important and will help deescalate the interaction.

2. Appeal to the reader’s emotions.

Rubrics can also generate conversation amongst students, engaging them in healthy debate, critical thinking, and requiring them to substantiate their claims. This can be done in many ways, but the best way I’ve seen it done is at the start of an assignment. Present students with the rubric explaining the variables and each level of performance. Then pass out assignment examples and ask the students to work in groups to grade the assignments.

During the process, use the opportunity to encourage students to be thinking and developing a plan for their own work. Ask them to set goals based on the quality they hope to produce and reasonable expectations they feel they can meet. Later, while students are working and questions arise, refer them back to the rubric and the goals they set for themselves. You can also showcase the original product examples with corresponding grades in the classroom so that students can compare their work to the benchmarks.

Once students become accustomed to the rubric as an assessment for their performance, you may also find it helpful to allow students to grade each other’s work, or their own work when appropriate.

3. Creating a rubric.

In order to properly set and manage expectations, rubrics should avoid ambiguity whenever possible, especially with young learners. Instead of vague language such as “Shows mastery of grammar,” use requirements like “No more than two capitalization mistakes” and “Must include three proper examples of question marks.”

Rubrics can be simple or complex, but they should always be user-friendly for students and parents. Bullet points are often used to clearly outline the requirements of each performance level, and they can be circled during the assessment process to bring attention to specific items.

These are two rubric examples that were created in Blackbaud Learning Management SystemTM. The first is a simple but clear and effective rubric for a young learner. It’s easy enough to understand that a teacher could have a brief discussion with students using this rubric and allow them to grade their own work.

The second example is more appropriate for older learners and is a more complex assignment. It may use language that isn’t quite as objective but is still very user-friendly and appropriate for a learner at that stage.

Once understood, it’s easy to create your own rubric for an assignment, and there are endless resources online to help. Rubrics may not be appropriate for every assignment type, but they can make assessing performance based assignments much easier while providing opportunities to include students in the assessment process.

About the Author

Matt Drown

Matt Drown is a member of the Blackbaud K-12 team and has been serving clients for just over a year. Before Blackbaud, Matt served as an elementary school teacher and internal project manager for a school while it implemented the Blackbaud Education Management products, giving him the client perspective. Combined, these experiences offer a unique skill set and relatability to his clients.

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