Rubrics – An Introduction

Objective tests such as multiple choice or short answer tests are easily graded, because their content is simple and a readily determined standard can be applied, such as a grade of A for 95-100% correct answers. In contrast, written assignments and alternative assessments require subjective judgments during grading, because there are no “absolutes” — each assignment or component task is unique. Subjective judgments are difficult to apply uniformly and consistently.

Rubrics are a great help in developing standards or criteria in such cases. For assignments such as compositions, essay tests, penmanship, or speeches, a rubric helps ensure fair grading. Furthermore, a rubric enables the teacher to sharpen his or her focus on identifying components of a task, and on selecting those that are essential elements. A rubric also is a great help for the student – it helps the student to complete assignments and prepare for tests more effectively.

Typically a rubric is written out in a chart form with the specific skill areas written down the left side of the page (refer to the sample Rubric for Evaluating Cursive Writing). Descriptive criteria and scoring methods are written across the top from left to right. As the sample cursive writing rubric illustrates, each block within the rubric is then filled to describe what the child’s grade would be if the work product matches pre-selected standards. This should be finished BEFORE the student starts the assignment.

Collaboration between teacher and student on what standards will be required helps students develop responsible ownership of their finished work. Once the rubric is completed, the student can refer to it and compare his or her progress to the standards that are spelled out. Most of the time, students are very motivated to excel when they are aware of exactly what is expected of them.

There are many websites on the Internet with ready-to-use rubrics — some are free and some require a subscription or purchase. (Refer to Resources for Special Needs (under the heading “Methods”) for possible web sites.) Occasionally, a teacher supply store will stock books that illustrate the full potential uses of rubrics.