Need for a Rubric

Reflect on your early days as a student. Your textbooks probably had a list of objectives at the beginning of each chapter. If you were a good student (and what teacher was not?), you most likely found that if you mastered the objectives, you could pass the test. In fact, objectives made passing almost too easy, didn't they? Objectives, then, tell you what needs to be learned or what needs to be done to be successful. Objectives are written at different levels of learning. Look at the objectives for this week. You can quickly review them to find out this week's topics and to determine how well you need to know each topic to successfully complete the week.

Write objectives… on the other hand, indicates that action will be required on your part.

So, how do objectives relate to assessment? Assessment is the way to determine whether someone has mastered the objectives, and in some cases, to what extent (level of mastery) someone has achieved the objectives. Using the examples above, it would be inappropriate to assess someone on the first objective. You can't write an assessment to show that you had reviewed examples. However, it would be appropriate to assess someone on the second objective. You could ask someone to write five objectives to show his or her mastery of the concept.

Given the preceding explanation of objectives and assessment, you can see the importance of recognizing good objectives and of being able to write objectives prior to constructing your assessments. So, what are the characteristics of well-written objectives? The objectives should be:

set against a specific standard
provided with any conditions under which they must be performed

Creating a Rubric

Rubrics are scoring tools that list the criteria for a specific task. Rubrics provide a means of deciding how well or to what extent an objective has been achieved. There is an excellent discussion of rubrics at Just What Is a Rubric? Take the time to read through the site before continuing with this topic. A particularly insightful part of the Web site is the link to students' opinions about rubrics. Take a look at the following Web sites to see how rubrics are used in instructional settings.

Now that you have seen examples of rubrics, you have an idea of what they look like. To see how a rubric is built, you will go through the steps of constructing a rubric for judging an oral presentation.

First, decide on the categories of observable behavior to be judged. Think about how you judge student presentations. What do you see? For example, you can use the following three categories to judge oral presentations:

organization of the material
audience awareness

Next, assign levels of behavior to each category. For example, start with delivery. Write a description of what you would see if a student gave a poor presentation.

    Level 1 (Unacceptable)
  • Reads verbatim from the printed report.
  • Mumbles and does not pronounce words understandably.
  • Does not make eye contact with audience.
    If a student gave an okay presentation, what would you see?

    Level 2 (Fair)

  • Rarely looks at audience.
  • Speaks quietly, but understandably.
  • Reads some of the report.
Notice that some of the same behaviors, to a lesser or greater degree, are present in both levels. There is still judgment involved, but a good rubric makes it easier for you to decide which level applies.

What if your student displays "mixed" behavior? For example, the student might read the report verbatim (Level 1) but also speak quietly but understandably (Level 2). In this case you have two choices:

1. Make a judgment call and keep the rubric as written.
2. If you feel that these behaviors are independent of one another, you could use each behavior-Voice and Use of Notes-as a category.

Obviously, rubrics can become very detailed.

The Sample Rubrics Table is a comprehensive rubric to evaluate oral presentations.