Are You Misusing Rubrics?

I recently was reading portions of a book called How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading by Susan M. Brookhart.  In one chapter of the book, she outlines the most commons misuses of rubrics.  While I don’t always make these mistakes, I admit I sometimes do.  Are you misusing rubrics in any of the following ways?

1.  Assessing the task or product rather than the learning outcomes.  Are you assessing what students are doing rather than what they are learning?  In other words, rubrics should not focus on following directions or completing tasks.  You can provide a checklist to help students gauge the completeness of their work and hold students accountable for following directions, but this should not be the focus of a rubric.

2.  Using rubrics to outline requirements or quantities.  Are you simply taking your directions and putting them in chart form, or are you using rubrics as a way to count?  Again, this is no more than a glorified checklist.  Rubrics should provide substantive descriptions of differing levels of quality.  Rubrics that assess requirements or focus on quantities are often assessing student compliance more than actual learning.  To be sure, compliance can be important, but it shouldn’t be the focus of a rubric.

3.  Using rubrics as rating scales.  Are you listing the criteria and then providing scales from Excellent to Poor, or 4 to 1, with no descriptions that distinguish clearly between what makes something Excellent versus Good?  This makes for easy grading, but it does not help one to accurately judge the work or provide meaningful feedback to students.


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