Evaluating student performance
The evaluation phase for direct measures includes the examination of students’ work by faculty to determine whether, and how well, the work achieves the learning outcome. Because assessment looks to evaluate specific aspects of student work, and these aspects must be clearly defined, rubrics are often created and used as guidelines in the process.
Rubrics are standardized evaluation forms used to assess whether and how well student work achieves learning outcomes. Effective rubrics can be developed in many different ways to assist the evaluation process. They can describe qualitative as well as quantitative differences and are often used to assess assignments, projects, portfolios, term papers, internships, essay tests, and performances. They allow multiple raters to assess student work effectively by increasing the consistency of ratings and decreasing the time required for assessment. The development of rubrics is covered in the Rubric Toolbox.
A Quick Introduction to Rubrics Accordion Closed
Adapted from Ball State University Assessment Workbook (2012)
A rubric is a scoring tool that lays out the specific expectations for an assignment. Rubrics divide an assignment into its component parts and provide a detailed description of what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable levels of performance for each of those parts. Rubrics are composed of four basic parts (University of Connecticut, n.d.):
- A task description (the assignment)
- A scale of some sort (levels of achievement, possibly in the form of grades) (Scales typically range from 3 to 5 levels.)
- The dimensions of the assignment (a breakdown of the skills/knowledge involved in the assignment)
- Descriptions of what constitutes each level of performance (specific feedback)
The University of Connecticut lists the following benefits of using rubrics.
- Rubrics provide timely feedback – grading can be done more quickly. Since students often make similar mistakes on assignments, incorporating predictable notes into the descriptions of dimensions portion of a rubric can simplify grading into circling or checking off all comments that apply to each specific student.
- Rubrics prepare students to use detailed feedback. In the rubric, the highest level descriptions of the dimensions are the highest level of achievement possible; whereas the remaining levels, circled or checked off, are typed versions of the notes/comments an instructor regularly writes on student work explaining how and where the student failed to meet that highest level. Thus, in using a rubric the student obtains details on how and where the assignment did or did not achieve its goal, and even suggestions (in the form of the higher level descriptions) as to how it might have been done better.
- Rubrics encourage critical thinking. Because of the rubric format, students may notice for themselves the patterns of recurring problems or ongoing improvement in their work.
- Rubrics facilitate communication with others. TAs, counselors/tutors, colleagues, etc. can benefit from the information contained in the rubric (i.e., provides information to help all involved in a student’s learning process).
- Rubrics help faculty refine their teaching skills. Rubrics showing a student’s continuing improvement or weaknesses over time, or rubrics showing student development over time, can provide a clearer view of teaching blind spots, omissions, and strengths.
- Rubrics help level the playing field. To aid first-generation or non-native speakers of English, rubrics can act as a translation device to help students understand what teachers are talking about.
If you are interested in a different approach than a rubric, consider the Qualitative Evaluation of Student Work Toolbox.