Rubrics are wonderful tools for specific assessments. They are easily customizable, offer a chance for student reflection, and have sliding scales that let your students see clear areas for growth and areas of strength. Rubrics are particularly vital for writing, as it is one of the most complex and subjective areas we teach. Are you familiar with the characteristics a strong, objective rubric should have? Keep reading to learn about 5 different types of rubrics.
A Useful Rubric…
A useful rubric should contain criteria that you wish to assess. It should contain specific, measurable language that will help students learn and tighten their writing. Rubrics that offer broad, non-specific categories such as excellent, good, and poor without additional details should be avoided in most cases. If you do use rubrics that offers these categories, make sure they have a clear flow and multiple criteria that will show students WHY their writing was excellent, good, or poor. For example, if you’re assessing punctuation and capitalization, ensure that criteria for those areas is mentioned at each level in a measurable, easily identifiable way (no errors, three or fewer errors, more than three errors, etc.)
There is an endless variety of rubrics. You can tailor them to fit your exact unit or lesson plan, but some teachers may not know just what kind of information to include when creating their own or purchasing a resource. Rubrics are often grouped into a few categories
Skill-based Rubrics (Analytical Rubrics)
These rubrics assess particular skills that students are mastering. Skill-based rubrics tend to focus on specific areas and domains of writing such as word choice, sentence use, grammar, and mechanics. Students are rated on a collection of skills with the highest number of points for the most advanced or proficient performance, and fewer points for lower levels of mastery. Skill-based rubrics are the most common in teaching writing and can offer a great way to target weaknesses and praise strengths.
These rubrics are great for teachers to ensure that student work is aligned to standards. Standards can drive your writing instruction. Are you worried that your students are not hitting all of the areas that standards address? Try using a rubric that offers standards-based criteria with a developmental assessment. That means that students should be assessed on each standard area to see if their writing is developing, proficient, or advanced in the given area. This is a useful tool not only to ensure that your writing assignments hit a variety of standards, but will allow you to see which students need more practice to become proficient in various areas.
Sometimes an assignment is more a matter of completion than proficiency. Perhaps you want to make sure your student used metaphors, similes, and sensory details. Perhaps you want to make sure they included an introduction, conclusion, and at least three supporting details. These types of rubrics can be called checklist rubrics. Quality is not assessed, but completeness is. If your student met the criteria, that’s a good start. You can consider moving on to skill-based or standards-based rubrics next.
These rubrics may help students take stock of their writing after the fact. We know that many students struggle with writing. This could be because they find it dull or taxing. Some students simply want to be done with a piece, so they rush through it and don’t look back. A rubric that asks students to examine their writing for specific content or criteria can help students notice what they need to improve upon. It can help students become more aware of their writing as a whole and also notice their areas of strength. Going through a reflective rubric with students and offering them praise and feedback can transform a dreaded solo task into a warm, communal one.
A holistic rubric consists of a single scale with all criteria included in the evaluation considered together. These rubrics generally offer blanket statements that provide an overall judgment of student work. Specific feedback is not given that can help the student target areas to improve. Many holistic rubrics offer choices similar to excellent, above average, fair, or poor. While it tells the student a range of acceptability, it doesn’t help them understand what they could do to move to the next level. One area in which these broad, holistic rubrics can be useful is for very simple, singular tasks (putting periods in sentences, correct spelling, etc.). It may also be useful for very young students to get them used to the idea of rubrics.
Are Rubrics Worth It?
Rubrics may seem overwhelming to a teacher who believes in best practices but has little time. You want to create specific, research-based, standards-driven rubrics, but one size does not fit all. Consider creating a series of rubrics you can use in rotation. Don’t use a few over and over or you’ll find that they become like white noise—tuned out by your students. Providing variety in both form and content will keep things fresh for you and your students. If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of making a dozen rubrics to rotate and tweak, finding a compatible supply of editable rubrics might be the right choice for you! You might network with other teachers on your team to create rubrics to share and rotate, or make a collection over time. Many veteran teachers have old favorites they’ll be willing to share or let you update! Whatever you decide to do, just remember that a variety of specific rubrics that helps students reflect and grow is the gold standard when you’re forming your rubric stockpile!