Tips for Better Student-Developed Rubrics

Are you planning to have your students create their own rubrics this year? Here are some tips on how to guide this process from Judy Arter & Jan Chappuis’ Creating & Recognizing Quality Rubrics.

While we’re all in favor of involving students in rubric development, it is not true that anything gos when we do. We have to be ready to lead students to germane criteria. We have to have a clear picture in our own minds of where we want to take students so that we can engage them in activities and show them models that lead them to justified inferences about quality. Teachers generally know more about quality than do students. Even though students always have knowledge to build on, they also can harbor misunderstandings. Our rubrics send a message to students about what is important. Therefore, the rubrics they create have to cover the features that really do define a quality performance or product.

We once saw a rubric developed by third graders to evaluate reading comprehension by producing a poster of the story. Students focused on the quality considerations for an attractive poster—three colors, at least five pictures, neat, readable from a distance, and so on—instead of the quality of the comprehension displayed by the poster.

A solution? How about leading these students to deliberately evaluate two different criteria: comprehension of the story as revealed by the poster and the attractiveness of the poster itself. For the former, have them think about what would indicate that a student has understood the story. For the latter, let them know that it is always important to present work in an engaging manner. Here their criteria for a quality poster might prove sufficient.

Then, if we put two scores in the record book—comprehension and presentation—it would be clear what each score is evidence of. The presentation score would be used in figuring an art grade, not a reading grade, because the rubric for presentation represents art-related learning targets.

Excerpt from Arter, J. & Chappius, J. (2006). Creating & recognizing quality rubrics. p. 61. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

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