A rubric can be defined as “as assessment tool often shaped like a matrix, which describes levels of achievement in specific area of performance, understanding, or behavior.” (1) Rubrics are generally classified into one of two groups, the analytic rubric and the holistic rubric.
The analytic rubric provides a student with the criteria to be assessed at each level of performance and gives a score for each of those criteria. Thus, it can provide a student with a significant level of feedback, and allows for some consistent scoring among students and across evaluators (if more than one is to be used). However, these take more times to score. Analytic rubrics are best used when you wish to see the specific strengths and weaknesses of your students, and when you wish to have detailed feedback about individual performance.
The holistic rubric provides one single score for a student based on an overall impression of that student’s performance in the activity or task being assessed. These types of rubrics allow for quick scoring, an overview of achievement with detail and are efficient when you have to grade a large number of students. Obviously, it cannot provide detailed performance information, and it can be hard to determine one single overall score for a given student. Thus, this is best used a “snapshot” of student performance, and when you find that a single dimension is sufficient to evaluate quality.
Using a rubric allows you to examine complex behaviors or products efficiently using a common framework for assessment and evaluation. They are criteria-based rather than norm-based; you are not comparing student behavior to each other but to a set criterion standard. Another positive attribute of rubrics is that when used among several teachers, a rubric allows for collaboration and cooperation, leading to better assessments. There are shared expectations and grading practices.
An excellent reference text for using rubrics in higher education is “Introduction to Rubrics,” by Stevens and Levi (2). Next week I will describe the components of a rubric and the steps necessary to develop one. A good number of Palmer faculty members use them in assessment, and I hope that if you do not, you may wish to consider doing so moving forward.
1. http://manoa.hawaii.edu/assessment/howto/rubrics.htm, accessed November 29, 2010
2. Stevens DD, Levi AJ. Introduction to rubrics. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing LLC, 2005