Rubrics, Checklists, and Rating Scales

When students begin a new assignment, there can be a lot of confusion as to what is expected of them. Without some sort of understanding of what constitutes a good grade, they are often at a loss for what to do in order to meet the teacher’s expectations. The same sort of questions can also arise among students when it comes to behavioral and social situations inside the classroom. Because of this, students need guidance and clarity about what they need to do to succeed in school. According to the author of How to Survive and Thrive in the First Three Weeks of School, this sort of clarity can be gained from rubrics.

“Rubric” is the overarching term for scoring guides that include scoring rubrics, checklists, and rating scales. Each kind of rubric can help students to evaluate their academic work, performances, and behavior along a continuum of excellence so that they understand the specific guidelines for success in all different areas. According to the textbook, good teachers “don’t just hand out, review, and explain instructional rubrics. They use them as teaching tools, very early in the school year, to raise expectations and show students how to meet them” (McEwan 97). Some rubrics are very simple and don’t require much time, and some are very detailed. There are a few main differences between the three kinds of rubrics mentioned above, which I’ll explain:

Scoring rubrics are designed mainly for the purpose of evaluating (scoring, assessing, or grading) academic work that students have already finished. The text explains that the best way to define a scoring rubric is by whether or not it can be used to “evaluate and grade a student work product or to assess students’ ability to perform a certain task on a summative evaluation” (97). These rubrics are usually in a grid format, explaining in detail the type of work that lines up with each grade. For example, if a student wants to get a 4 out of 4 on a paper, he or she can look at the scoring rubric beforehand and see the standards that the teacher has set for students to receive that grade. If a teacher is scoring a paper with a rubric, the teacher can look at the quality of the work he or she is assessing and match it up with the expectations on the rubric. That way, the teacher can see whether the student’s work is poor enough to receive a 1 out of 4 or proficient enough to receive the full grade. Scoring rubrics can be used to increase success because they give a visual representation of exactly what kind of work leads to each grade, and let students see what they should do or what they have done to succeed.

Another type of rubric is the checklist. This is a much simpler kind of evaluation instrument than the scoring rubric because it requires a forced-choice answer like “yes” or “no”. A checklist will usually communicate a teacher’s high expectations to his or her students by showing a list of questions that students should be able to answer “yes” to when they go over it, such as “Did I use correct spelling and grammar?” “Do I have a neat cover and title page?” “Did I use my best handwriting?” etc. Checklists are useful because they can assess a broad range of things in the classroom: in addition to evaluating student work, they can also be used to communicate behavioral expectations.When students come in to class they can look at a checklist of what they are supposed to do as class begins. In this way, checklists can be a sort of all-purpose assessment tool.

The third kind of rubric in the book is a rating scale. McEwan writes, “rating scales are often used by teachers to rate homework quality, preparedness for class, and participation levels” (99). The way they work is that kids are asked to assign numbers to their work on a scale of 1-5 (usually), or teachers use this scale to grade what students have done. Some rating scales are similar to scoring rubrics in their  grid-like format, but they can also look different depending on teacher preference. Like the scoring rubric, these can increase student success because they show the gradations of what good and bad work or behavior looks like.

Of these three assessment tools, I prefer the scoring rubric. All types of rubrics are useful, but I think scoring rubrics provide students with the most detailed representation of what a teacher expects. This clear visual feedback is something that students can read before they begin their work, and look at again when they are done in order to understand the specific reasons that they did well (or not so well). When I think about evaluating students, I also tend to think about parents and the questions they have about their students’ work. All parents want their kids to succeed, and if they are given vague explanations as to why their kids aren’t doing well in school, they are more likely to be dissatisfied with the teacher and unable to give their kids help. This is one of the other reasons I like scoring rubrics the most; kids can bring them home to their parents so that both parties can review and discuss the reasons for a good or bad grade. Rubrics also use more formal language, which I think is better for high school age students. If a teacher scores an assignment with pictures on a checklist, it doesn’t seem like he or she takes the student work as seriously as when the work is graded with specific or formal language. Checklists and rating scales are great evaluation tools, but I don’t think they provide as much specific information as scoring rubrics do. As McEwan says in the textbook, “if you’re fuzzy about what you expect, your students will be even fuzzier” (99).


Posted on January 8, 2011, in L. i.: Learner centered, S. ii.: Aligned with curriculum standards and outcomes, S. iii.: Integrated across content areas, T. i.: Informed by standards-based assessment, T. ii.: Intentionally planned and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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