Know what I’ve been rediscovering over the last few days? Developing a useful analytic rubric that produces valid information is challenging. Really. Challenging. I’m going to guess that anyone who has been charged with the task of designing such rubric knows the level of frustration thinking to which I refer. In fact, I’m realizing that I probably grapple with rubric writing more than any other type of writing I do.

I also know that I’m not alone in my struggle. As you might suspect, about thirty seconds into analytic rubric-design hell, I will often hunt around online for one that might best meet the needs of those I’m working with. Like many of the teachers that I know, my pursuit of the perfect pre-fab rubric is often aborted when I realize how faulty many of them can be, however

Over the years, colleagues and mentors have helped me develop some basic understandings about analytic rubric-design that guide my own writing and often lead to better results. This is what I’ve learned:

  • First, I consider the purpose of the rubric. Is it intended to merely provide a score, or is it intended to provide learners direction, feedback, and the ability to measure performance aross several dimensions? All rubrics are not analytic rubrics.  The type of rubric that I create must align to these considerations.
  • Wrangling with the attributes of selected criteria and illustrating how they change across different levels of performance is where my head begins to pound. It’s what always prompts my search for a ready-made rubric, and it is typically where I find pre-fab rubrics falling short in terms of coherence. Selecting precise descriptors and ensuring some consistency is important. Finding just the right words is often a struggle for me, and the internet rarely delivers much in the way of a solution. I could ditch the levels altogether I suppose, but then it wouldn’t be a rubric. It would be a checklist. Their purposes are very different. Rubrics provide kids a path, not a simple landing place.

Designing a rubric forces me to think deeply about what I’m asking of students, what quality processes and products look like, and what the essential nuances are between performance levels. This is a good thing, I know. Sometimes, thinking deeply gives me a headache, though.

What are your favorite resources relevant to rubric construction? What are your experiences with the rubrics you’ve found online? Do you have any good examples to share? I’d love to see. They’re very hard to find.

Jennifer Borgioli designed something fabulous for all of us, though. Go dig around in her quality rubrics wiki.


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