Helpful Guidelines for Grading Rubrics

Learn about grading rubrics and how to use them in your classroom
Contributed By

Alexis Roesser

English Teacher and Department Chair for Salamanca High School

Helpful Guidelines for Grading Rubrics

Posted in Pro Tips | June 13, 2019

When you were in school, how exciting was it to receive an “A” on an assignment? You saw the bright red mark at the top of your paper and knew that you nailed that task. If it was a task such as a test with multiple choice answers, it was easy to see what questions you might have missed and how many points were deducted from your overall score. No matter what, that "A" meant that you were probably going to earn some ice cream or a special treat that evening!

However, assignments that require a greater level of rigor—or greater depth of knowledge—are not quite so cut and dry. What constitutes an "A" grade, and does it show a significantly greater degree of understanding and key concepts that a student who receives a "D"?

Creating fair, equitable, and transparent grading rubrics are an important component of ensuring student success, eliminating teacher bias, and pushing student rigor with projects and assignments that are both aligned to content standards and allow for students' creation and creativity.

What is a Grading Rubric?

A grading rubric is a predetermined criterion that evaluates specific skills or sets expectations for assignments. Grading rubrics provide a clear delineation of what is evaluated, what is addressed from the standards, and what students need to demonstrate in order to earn credit for each rubric piece. Grading rubrics lend themselves nicely to a wide variety of assessments and assignments that work with the top levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, including analysis, synthesis, and creation.

For group projects, grading rubrics can also allow each student's contribution a separate evaluation, providing parity in case one student does not pull their weight. A wide variety of assessments such as speeches, creative writing projects, research papers, STEAM fair projects, and artwork are just a small sample of assessments that work well with grading rubrics. Additionally, grading rubrics provide feedback during benchmark assessments of long-term projects, so students can clearly see their progress and what tasks still need attention before the final project's deadline hits.

Type of Rubrics

Grading rubrics fall into two subsets: analytic and holistic. Each offers specific benefits depending on what the educator is looking to asses.

Holistic grading rubrics look at a student's performance as a whole, and does not delineate specific areas of student assessment. There are performance descriptors that are often thorough and specific to the task, and grade ranges (ex: 90-100, 80-89, etc) that correspond to those descriptors. One of the benefits of holistic grading rubrics is that they allow a snapshot of a student's performance on one overall task, but drawbacks include the lack of specific feedback in certain areas and the inability to weight portions of the task.

A great example of a holistic and a holistic/analytic hybrid rubric is New York State's writing rubrics for grade 6-8 state testing. Here, you can see how holistic rubrics assess short responses for overall content and clarity, and how a holistic/analytic hybrid rubric scores longer essay responses where students need to demonstrate a variety of skills.

Analytic grading rubrics allow two columns and is traditionally created in a table format. One column identifies the specific criteria, and the other expresses the level of achievement in mastering those criteria. Cult of Pedagogy shares a worthwhile resource for analytical rubrics and how they can identify specific areas of student strengths and weaknesses.

Rubrics for Teachers and Online Rubric Makers

Creating a rubric from scratch may seem like a daunting task, but there are many templated rubrics for teachers, as well as online rubric makers where educators can easily plug in specific information. A great place to begin looking for project or assessment rubrics is within your own district or state's exam system. For example, if students in 11th grade English class are seeing the same writing and performance rubric throughout the year on assignments, then they know exactly what's graded on their state final assessment. Use these already established local and state rubrics as a way to prepare students for critical exams and familiarize students with its terms and categories.

Looking for something that lends itself to a wider variety of assessments? Look no further than your LMS, where user-created rubrics are uploaded for easy grading and record keeping. If you're not sure where to begin, contact your department chair, instructional coaches, or tech-savvy colleagues to help you begin this process. You can also use online sites such as RubiStar, Rubric Maker, and Quick Rubric to search through a cache of pre-existing rubrics to meet your needs, or create one for a specific project.

Rubric Template

What makes up a good grading rubric template? First, specificity is key. Your language must be precise, clear, and explicitly lay out what students need to accomplish in order to be successful on the assignment. Consistency in language use is also critical, as well as how it correlates to levels or scores. For example, if vocabulary is a rubric requirement, the difference between a level 3 could be "grade-appropriate vocabulary", while a level 4 uses "sophisticated, domain-specific vocabulary." Reliability is also a factor when creating a quality grading rubric. Would another teacher be able to score the assignment with roughly the same outcome based on the rubric you've created?

Great grading rubrics give educators specific and reliable data to assess tasks and assignments that measure upper-level thinking skills. Creating a quality grading rubric is a careful collaboration between your content standards, local and state assessments, and evaluation of student strengths and areas for improvement.

What essential components do you include in your grading rubrics? Share with us on Twitter @Schoology


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