Using Rubrics To Communicate With Students

Techniques for using rubrics to communicate with students

Using Rubrics to Communicate With Students

While we may associate rubrics with assessment, they are fundamentally about communication. Rubrics enable you to:

  • Clearly communicate your goals for an assignment,
  • Give students feedback on their progress, and
  • Promote more productive conversations about grades by creating transparency on why a student’s assignment earned a specific grade.

Whatever the style of assignment, including rubrics with qualitative justifications for quantitative grades, can help students understand why they received a specific grade for an assignment and dramatically cut down on the number of questions and disputes about grades. Rubrics also help to normalize and clarify grading practices within an instructional team and are particularly beneficial for helping new TAs and instructors to understand expectations. And rubrics aren’t just for grading — you can set them up without points to provide descriptive and actionable feedback even with points attached.

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Tips and Suggested Practices

  • Align your rubric criteria with your course learning objectives (This is often an iterative process as your course and assignments evolve.)
  • Conduct grade norming sessions with a teaching team. Use the rubric to evaluate a few examples to get feedback on the rubric and set shared expectations for how the team will apply the criteria and review borderline cases.
  • Create opportunities for students to engage with the rubric criteria before they submit work for a formal grade. Examples: Have your students:
    • Score a sample assignment using the rubric
    • Use the criteria in a peer review or self-assessment activity.
    • Contribute to the design of a rubric where appropriate.
    • Discuss what they learned from these activities.
  • Embed rubrics into Canvas Assignments. Canvas rubrics are especially helpful for large classes were providing students with individualized feedback is not always feasible. They can help coordinate grading across a teaching team and reduce the need to rewrite the same feedback for many students. You can always add personalized comments as well.
  • Develop the descriptive texts in a separate document which you can save (e.g. in Word), then cut and paste the text into the rubric when you are satisfied.
  • If your rubric is used for grading, keep in mind how the scores on the rubric correlate to your letter grade scale. Canvas will default to giving whole number scores, but a “B” level response out of 10 points is 8.6, not 8.  Accurately calibrating your descriptions to the corresponding grade scale is fairer to students, and also reduces the need to use on “fudge points” when calculating final grades. This calculator can help you to calibrate a rubric by matching the course scheme to different point scales:

Resources

Examples from the UW Madison

Rubrics are useful for a wide array of assignments from low-stakes, formative work to capstone projects and exams. Below you will find examples of how UW Madison instructors used Canvas rubrics to guide students through a variety of projects.

Formative Assignments - Using Rubrics to Encourage Effort and Emphasize Process

Rubrics do not need to be elaborate to be effective. If your goal is to focus on thoughtful completion, a simple rubric makes grading quick and straightforward, as in this example from Anthropology 104.

Criteria
Ratings
Points
Effort
Completion
Appropriateness
8.0 points
Full Credit

This response is complete and appropriate to the task
6.8 points
Partial Credit

A reasonable effort was made, but the response may be incomplete or may have inadequately addressed the task.
5.0 points
Half Credit

Some effort was made, but the response was incomplete, inadequate, or incorrect.
0.0 points
No Credit
8.0 points
On-Time
Submission
2.0 points
Full Credit

The assignment was submitted on or before the due date
1.5 points
One day late

The assignment was submitted late.
1.0 point
Two days late

The assignment was submitted very late.
0.0 points
No Credit
2.0 points
Total Points:10.0 points
Claire Wendland, Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Jerome Camal, Associate Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Falina Enriquez, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Daniel Pell, Strategic Learning Technology Consultant, DoIT Academic Technology

Rubrics can also be used to focus students on the process of completing an assignment - rather than solely on the final product. Here we see another way in which rubrics function as a communication tool, helping students learn how to succeed on a project. The Mechanics of Materials course in the College of Engineering provides a great example.

Jacob Notbohm explains: "This rubric is for a formative activity, requiring a group of students to solve a problem collaboratively using concepts that they were recently exposed to. Designing the rubric helped us to identify that our objectives for this activity were to introduce the students to the topic, to give them some early practice with new concepts, and to enable them to work in teams. After establishing these objectives, we realized that the grading of this activity didn't have to match our grading on the exams--instead of studying each step of a student's solution to determine exactly what that student did right or wrong, we simply needed to assess broadly whether the students accomplished the objectives. The rubric also puts greater emphasis on effort and general problem solving and a lesser emphasis on getting the right answer. The rubric, therefore, benefits the course by indicating to the students the purpose of the task and by saving us time in grading."

Criteria RatingsPoints
Effort / Group Work
There is evidence of an effort to learn from the assignment and to complete it as a group.
Some indicators of this include: work is shown, all students' handwriting present, numerical answers are given with a reasonable number of significant digits and units. Written answers are thoughtful and relate clearly to concepts from this week's module
20.0 points
A range

There is strong and clear evidence of an effort by the group to complete the task
17.6 points
AB/B range

There is clear evidence of an effort by the group to complete the task, but one or more expected indicators of effort may be missing or incomplete.
15.6 points
BC/C range

There is some evidence of an effort by the group to complete the task, but more than one of the expected indicators of effort may be missing or incomplete.
10.0 points
F range

There is insufficient evidence of an effort by the group to complete the task.
0.0 points
No Credit
20.0 points
Set-Up and Steps
The problem is set up correctly and appropriate steps are followed. Some indicators of this include free body diagrams, equilibrium equations, constitutive equations, geometry/comparability equations (as appropriate).
10.0 points
A range

The problem is set up correctly and all appropriate sets are followed.
8.8 points
AB/B range

The problem is generally set up correctly and appropriate steps are followed with some improvement possible. There may be some errors in setting up the problem, but this does not detract from the overall process.
7.8 points
BC/C range

The problem is attempted and some steps may be accurate, but key steps are missing. The majority of the steps are incorrect. Errors in setting up the problem detract from the overall process.
5.0 range
F range

The majority of the steps are incorrect. Errors in setting up the problem greatly detract from the overall process.
0.0 points
No Credit
10.0 points
Application of Course Concepts
The equations, variables, and analysis from the relevant course content are appropriately selected and applied. Short answer conceptual questions are answered correctly by referring to the appropriate course content (if applicable).
10.0 points
A range

Related concepts from the course have been applied effectively to analyze and solve the problem.
8.8 points
AB/B range

Related equations and concepts from the course have generally been applied correctly to analyze and attempt a solution for the problem, but there may be minor errors in the variables or lack of clarity in the short answer.
7.8 points
BC/C range

The related equations and concepts from the course may be present, but problems with analysis or application of concepts demonstrate a lack of understanding of one or more key course concepts.
5.0 points
F range

The related equations and concepts from the course have not been used in the response and/or an understanding of the appropriate course content has not been demonstrated.
0.0 points
No Credit
10.0 points
Mathematical Precisions & Accuracy
The calculation has been carried out through all its steps with acceptable accuracy and precision.
5.0 points
A range

No mathematical mistakes or only very minor mistakes that do not affect the accuracy and precision of the calculation.
4.4 points
AB/B range

There may be some mathematical mistakes that slightly affect the accuracy and precision of the calculation.
3.9 points
BC/C range

Mathematical mistakes significantly affect the accuracy and precision of the calculation and/or the problem may be over-simplified or not all work was shown.
2.5 points
F range

The attempt at mathematics is fundamentally flawed and/or no work is shown.
0.0 points
No Credit
5.0 points
Completeness
The full assignment has been completed.
5.0 points
A range

All parts of the problem have been completed.
4.4 points
AB/B range

Al parts of the problem have been attempted but some may be partially incomplete.
3.9 points
BC/C range

Most parts of the problem have been attempted but some are incomplete.
2.5 points
F range

Less than half of the questions have been attempted.
0.0 points
No Credit
5.0 points
Total Points:50 points
Jacob Notbohm, Assistant Professor, Engineering Physics, College of Engineering 
Shiva Rudrajaru, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
Daniel Pell, Strategic Learning Technology Consultant, DoIT Academic Technology

Summative Assignments - Using Rubrics To Detail Levels of Achievement

A detailed rubric for a summative assignment can ground both the students’ efforts and the instructor’s assessment. This example, from Anthropology 104 - Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity, highlights the flexibility and level of detail you can achieve with Canvas rubrics. Notably, some criteria are set to a definitive score while others capture a range - using either option, graders can modify the final score that is entered.

CriteriaRatingsPoints
Completion
All the written parts of the assignment are complete.
5.0 points
A range

All parts are complete and fully meet the requirements of the assignment.
4.25 points
AB/B range

Most parts are complete and/or are close to the requirements of the assignment.
3.75 points
BC/C range

Some parts of the assignment are incomplete or do not meet the requirements of the assignment.
3.25 points
F range

The work is mostly incomplete or below the requirements of the assignment.
0.0 points
No Credit
5.0 points
Clarity & Coherence of Writing
The writing is clear, coherent, and logically organized.
5.0 points
A range

The writing is clear, coherent, and logically organized.
8.8 points
AB/B range

The writing is generally clear, coherent, and logically organized.
7.8 points
BC/C range

The writing is not always clear, coherent, and logically organized, which can make it hard to understand.
5.0 range
F range

There are problems in the writing which make it difficult to understand and significantly reduce the effectiveness of the answer.
0.0 points
No Credit
5.0 points
Evidence of Research Process
The research process has been followed through all its stages.
10.0 points
A range

It is clear that the research process has been followed through all of its stages.
8.5 points
AB/B range

The research process has been generally followed, but some steps are not reported sufficiently or have not been given the expected effort.
7.5 points
BC/C range

The research process has been loosely followed. Some steps are not reported sufficiently or have been given inadequate effort, which reduces the overall quality of the result.
6.5 points
F range

The research process has generally not been followed or adequately reported, which significantly reduces the overall quality of the results.
0.0 points
No Credit
10 points
Depth & Detail of Written Response
Written responses are specific, detailed, and show depth.
25 points
A range

The depth and detail of the responses exceed the expectations for the assignment.
23.25 points
AB/B range

The depth and detail of the responses meet the expectations for the assignment.
20.75 points
BC/C range

The depth and detail of the responses meet some of the expectations of the assignment but explanations may be superficial or lack detail.
17.5 points
D range

The depth and detail of the responses are below the expectations of the assignment. Explanations are very superficial and they lack key information and details.
15.0 - 0 points
F range
The depth and detail of the responses are significantly below the expectations of the assignment. Explanations are limited, surface-level, or unjustified.
25.0 points
Analysis and Critical Reflection
Written responses are thoughtful, reflective, and make connections to other course content and to real-world situations.
25.0 points
A range

The quality of the analysis, reflection, and connections made exceeds expectations for the assignment.
23.35 points
AB/B range

The quality of the analysis, reflection, and connections made meets the expectations of the assignment.
20.75 points
BC/C range

The quality of the analysis meets some of the expectations or the assignment, but there is little or no evidence of making connections to course content or to real-world situations beyond the basic level. Those connections made may be inaccurate or unjustified.
17.5 points
F range

The quality of the analysis is below the expectations of the assignment. There is little or no evidence or making connections to course content, or to real-world situations except at a very basic level. The connections made may be poorly explained, inaccurate, or unjustified.
15.0 - 0 points
F range
The quality of the response is significantly below the expectations of the assignment. Any connection made to other course content or to real-world situations are poorly explained, inaccurate, or unjustified.
25.0 points
Total Points:70 points
Claire Wendland, Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Jerome Camal, Associate Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Falina Enriquez, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Jennifer Estes, Teaching Assistant, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Daniel Pell, Strategic Learning Technology Consultant, DoIT Academic Technology

Rubrics Without Points - Using Rubrics To Provide Actionable Feedback

Rubrics aren’t only for grading! Canvas lets you remove the points from a rubric so that the descriptive text is all that students see. The assignment can also be graded separately from the rubric. In this example, the rubric is being used to give clear, actionable feedback to students on two draft research questions they submitted. The assignment is graded ‘Credit/No Credit’ separately from the rubric. The options you need to achieve this are accessed at set up, or by clicking the ‘Pencil’ (e.g. if the rubric is used for multiple assignments).

A104 | FWP #2.2 | Research Questions (no points)
Criteria
Ratings
Research Question Comment
Your TA uses this rubric to evaluate your proposed research questions. Please follow the advice you are given. If you have questions, contact your TA.
Both Questions OK
Both questions look like they can be successful for this project.
Choose one.
First Question
OK

The first question looks more likely to be successful for this assignment.
Use this question.
Second Question
OK

The second question looks more likely to be successful for this assignment.
Use this question.
Neither Question
OK

Neither of these questions seems likely to be successful for this project.
Please contact your TA right away for assistance.
Claire Wendland, Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Jerome Camal, Associate Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Falina Enriquez, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Jennifer Estes, Teaching Assistant, Anthropology, College of Letters and Science
Daniel Pell, Strategic Learning Technology Consultant, DoIT Academic Technology




Keywords:rubric, student, communication   Doc ID:106695
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Remote Instruction
Created:2020-10-19 08:34 CSTUpdated:2020-11-03 12:31 CST
Sites:Remote Instruction
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