2.6 Design Rubrics with Transparent Criteria


Do you find sometimes your assessments are measuring unintended skills and outcomes?

Rubrics are effective tools in making the learning outcomes and expectations of an assignment explicit. They clarify what is expected and can even include room for students to add goals they have for a given assignment. Clarifying expectations through a rubric allows for consistent measurement of the intended learning outcome.

Allowing students flexibility in the ways they demonstrate their learning is key to developing strategic, goal-directed learners. Referring back to Kevin’s positive assessment experience (Three Assessment Experiences), critical to his success was his ability to choose a learning product (podcast interview) in keeping with his preferred mode of expression (verbal). This flexibility stemmed from a learning outcome which was intentionally separated from the means of achieving the outcome. One of the challenges in providing this kind of flexibility is the grading of diverse assessment products. You may be asking yourself, “How do I apply consistent grading to a podcast, presentation, essay, and website?”

The answer lies in stripping away all of the frills or ways of demonstrating learning. In Kevin’s case, the construct included a knowledge outcome (understanding how government policy interacts with Canadian cultural industries) and a skill outcome (conducting an analysis). The next step is to create a rubric based on these two main outcomes. Here’s an example rubric for Kevin’s assignment:

Creating Rubrics for Universally-Designed Assessments

  • Step 1: Look at samples. Show students examples of “good” and “developing” work. Identify the characteristics that make the good ones good and the developing ones incomplete.
  • Step 2: List criteria. Use the discussion of models to begin a list of what counts in quality work.
  • Step 3: Articulate gradations of quality (not frequency). Describe the best and worst levels of quality; then fill in the middle levels based on your knowledge of common problems and the discussion of developing work.
  • Step 4: Practice on samples. Have students use the rubrics to evaluate the samples you gave them in Step 1.
  • Step 5: Use self and peer assessment. Give students their task. As they work, stop them occasionally for self- and peer-assessment.
  • Step 6: Revise. Always give students time to revise their work based on the feedback they get in Step 5.

Source: UDL: Supporting diversity in BC schools

Reflection: One Small Step

Ask yourself:

  • What are the skills or understandings this assessment is intended to measure?
  • Have components that are not tied to learning outcomes been removed from my rubric?
  • Are there opportunities for choice within the rubric to engage learners in the assignment?


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Universal Design for Learning: One Small Step Copyright © 2022 by Sara Dzaman; Derek Fenlon; Julie Maier; and Toni Marchione is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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