When students design their own rubrics, they engage in higher order thinking such as critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation. They take ownership for their learning and define their own standards. Creating rubrics with students clarifies the expectations for the assignment and checks for their understanding of the components of the assignment. Co-creating rubrics is an inclusive teaching practice when you create transparency for grading, encourage full participation in the creation of the rubrics, and allow students to express their own perspectives.
[Stephanie Foster]: In this session, we'll talk about co-creating rubrics with students. Why should we co-create rubrics with students? Doing such an activity encourages the development of higher-order thinking, such as critical thinking, analysis, and evaluation. Critical thinking is the ability to think, reason, and make judgments. By applying it to this kind of activity, it promotes self-assessment and metacognitive skills, or encourages us to think about our own thinking and learning. Students take ownership for their learning by defining their own standards. Co-creating rubrics with students clarifies the expectation for the assignment and helps to check for their understanding. And it is also an inclusive teaching practice when you create transparency for grading, encourage full participation, and allow students to express their own perspectives. In my experience, it also helps to identify the blind spots that everyone has as an instructor and helps you to address those blind spots before moving forward.
This approach encourages you to use co-creative rubrics and peer review for formative assessment, rather than summative assessment. Formative assessment is an in-process assessment to check with students and see how things are going. Are they learning what you want them to learn? Do they understand what is expected? Formative assessment helps to improve learning and performance by allowing students the metacognitive activities we discussed earlier. Formative assessment clearly communicates learning goals and the criteria for success, it provides clear and detailed feedback, and prepares students to use that feedback for improvement.
Formative assessment also allows you as the instructor to be able to make changes or provide additional instruction. So how should we approach co-creating rubrics with students? Five approaches listed here, some of which come from a book that is included in your show notes, titled Instruction to Rubrics. The first is to start with a complete draft. In this case, you as the instructor would provide a complete draft of a rubric but leave room for changes and clarifications. This may be helpful for students who have not had much experience with rubrics but still allows them to engage with the ideas and offer some options for improving the rubric and improving their own understanding. This probably takes the least amount of time overall; this can be done individually with students or perhaps better done in– as group work. The second option is to start with a partial draft. This may be good for students who have some experience with rubrics or who have some experience with your instruction. In this case, you as the instructor would define the dimensions of the and the performance levels and students would complete the cells. Another option is for you as the instructor to complete some of the cells and ask students to complete the rest of the rubric. This also could be done very well in groups. The third option is to try a progressive model. I describe this like a progressive dinner in which appetizers are served at one house, entree at the next, and dessert at the third, in which case you divide the work of the rubric among several groups so that students are not overwhelmed with creating the entire rubric but instead can work on maybe one dimension of the rubric. You could put this in a Google doc, for example, and students could then come together and discuss the rubric as a whole before moving forward. A fourth approach is to start with learning outcomes. This is particularly useful for upper-level students or graduate students who have had significant experience with rubrics or students who are submitting a multiple-stage project or revisions for projects, in which case you communicate with the students what the learning outcomes are for the assignment and then the students then define all the dimensions and the– and complete the rest of the rubric. Finally you could build the rubric as the instruction progresses. So this works well for ongoing projects for which students will produce multiple drafts at different stages. I've used this very often with courses in which students have a term research paper for instance that they work on for most of the semester. So in this model you would build the rubric as students learn each piece so if you're working on introductions and conclusions that might be a good time to build out those pieces of the rubric, or if you're working on data collection, for instance, sampling techniques, you would create that portion of the rubric that focuses on sampling techniques, for example.
Some approaches to constructing the rubric1
- Start with a complete draft. Instructor provides the structure, organization, and standards and leaves room for changes and clarifications. This is helpful for students who have not had much experience with rubrics. This approach probably takes the least amount of time overall.
- Start with a partial draft. Instructor defines the dimensions and performance levels and students complete the cells. An option is to complete the cells for the highest or lowest levels of performance and ask students to complete the rest of the rubric.
- Try a progressive model. Like a progressive dinner in which appetizers are served at one house, entrée at the next, and dessert at the third, the labor of constructing the rubric could be shared by groups working on different pieces.
- Start with learning outcomes. Instructor provides the learning outcomes for the project, and students develop the rubric in its entirety. This approach works best with upper-level or graduate students who have had experience with rubrics or with submitting multiple stages or revisions for projects.
- Build the rubric as instruction progresses. This works for ongoing projects for which students will produce drafts at different stages, such as research papers and term projects. This might also be useful for assignments that are repeated with the expectation that students improve their performance with each submission. Using lab reports as an example: When you are working on sampling techniques, have students create the portion of the rubric that focuses on sampling (e.g. chooses correct tool, measures accurately, uses safety protocols).
1Some of these approaches come from Stevens & Levi (2013)
Applications from CU Boulder instructors
Participants in a workshop were asked to suggest ways in which these ideas could be used in their own classrooms.
For a writing assignment that requires students to integrate concepts learned throughout the semester, both formative assessment and co-creation of rubrics can be beneficial. For a large classroom setting, co-creation can be done by recitation sections. A recitation section can be divided into 3-4 students per group, and then students can be asked to break down the expectations in the assignment guideline. We can then regroup to brainstorm about the expectations/criteria. During the process, we can encourage students to think about the reasons we have the assignment (focusing on learning outcomes), how the assignment helps them to achieve the goals of the course, and what the final product will look like in order to achieve those goals.
For lower-level Spanish courses, it is probably best to at least have a detailed discussion about the rubrics with students (for oral exams and writing assessments). But for a course like AP Spanish (high school), it would be extremely useful to identify the learning objectives that the College Board establishes and then have students work on defining what each of those learning objectives would actually look like as rubric criteria. Many students would benefit from seeing writing samples and understanding why each writing sample earned the score it did.
An instructor might work with students to build the rubric section by section, at the end of each class, over the course of a semester or instructional unit. So for instance, a class on selecting and evaluating sources of information might finish by co-creating the relevant section of the rubric: i.e. the part that requires X number of sources, or X different types of source, and so on. A class on the revision process might finish with a group discussion of how this should be reflected in the rubric. This would keep students returning to the rubric, rather than allowing them to forget about it and move on.
To engage students, the instructor could run polls on different parts of the rubric, or get students to debate the benefits and drawbacks of different options.
In a chemistry course, most rubric-based assignments involve some sort of experiment lab report or a presentation. The most effective method for students to co-create the rubric for a lab report is to give them a starting point of what is expected. Using a “partial draft” method would provide the dimensions that the instructor thinks are important and necessary, and leaves room for students to decide how they should be evaluated and judged. A good approach might be to allow students to define dimensions based on experiences they’ve had in previous courses, then work together to define the assessment scale.
Fraile, J., Panadero, E., & Pardo, R. (2017). Co-creating rubrics: The effects on self-regulated learning, self-efficacy and performance of establishing assessment criteria with students. Studies In Educational Evaluation. DOI: 10.1016/j.stueduc.2017.03.003
Selke, M. J. G. (2013). Rubric assessment goes to college: Objective, comprehensive evaluation of student work. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.