01 July 2008

0 Rubrics….What and Why? Part 3 of 4

As rubrics become increasingly popular among the education sector, some educators may ask:

  • What are rubrics?
  • Why use rubrics? What is the educational/significant value of utilizing a rubric?
  • How do you create/design a rubric?

The above are valid questions as, by educational standards, the rubric has become a choice of authentic performance-based assessments.

What are Rubrics?

Interestingly enough, the original meaning of “rubric” is derived from the Latin word "rubrica" which, in the mid-15th century, meant the red earth (used by carpenters to mark a line on wood surfaces in order to make accurate cut).

Additionally, “the Oxford English Dictionary states that in the mid-15th century, rubric referred to headings of different sections of a book. This stemmed from the work of Christian monks who painstakingly reproduced sacred literature, invariably initiating each major section of a copied book with a large red letter. Because the Latin word for red is “ruber”, “rubric” came to signify the headings for major divisions of a book.”

In today's terms, rubric takes on a whole new meaning. A rubric is a scoring guide that evaluates a student's performance based on the sum of a full range of criteria, rather than a single numerical score.

Additionally, rubrics are commonly presented in a table format (with specific criteria) which differentiates between various levels of performance, beginning with the highest level - progressing to the lowest. These levels are used to evaluate the set of detailed tasks associates to the final product.

Why Use Rubrics?
According to Heidi Goodrich Andrade, a name synonymous with rubrics/authentic assessment, rubrics are powerful tools for both teaching and assessments, and should be utilized for the following reasons:

  • Explicit /concise guidelines regarding teacher expectations.
  • Provides informative feedback of a student’s overall strengths/weaknesses.
  • Improves the student end product - therefore increases learning.
  • Supports the development of cognitive recognition.Provides the scaffolding necessary to improve the quality of a student’s work, while increasing their knowledge.

Rubrics serve to both inform and improve instruction as well as provide quality, precise feedback to the learner. If designed with clear, concise criteria, rubrics may serve a vital role in creating assessments that are both student-centered and standards driven.

The next posting will discuss both how to create and the resources available for designing rubrics.


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