• Grading student outcomes using rubrics


    HAVING written on grading systems focused on letter marks, we take up the topic of rubrics. A rubric is a facility or tool which helps us arrive at what grade or mark we shall give to a student for a specific outcome within a particular timeframe. Searching the web for the etymology or beginnings of the term rubrics took me to many hyperlinks in several websites. Almost all of the journal articles and dictionaries I patiently visited dealt on rubrics of an assignment in history rather than on the history of rubrics. Thank heavens, I came across this hyperlink—http://faculty.ccp.edu/dept/view points/w06v7n2/rubrics1.htm—which gives the origin of the term “rubric” (roo´brik).

    As understood today within the educational realm, rubric is a tool that is used as an assessment and scoring device to judge the quality of student work. Popham (1997) writes that the term “rubric” itself has an interesting progression—that “the original meaning of rubric had little to do with the scoring of students’ work.”

    The Online dictionary traces the term rubric as coming from the Latin for “red” or “reddish.” Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that “in the mid-15th century, rubric referred to headings of different sections of a book.”  “. . . Christian monks who painstakingly reproduced sacred literature, invariably initiated each major section of a copied book with a large red letter. Because the Latin word for red is ruber, rubric came to signify the headings for major divisions of a book.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubric> In modern service books such as a Roman Missal or prayer book, one would see that “the headings, titles, and sections  . . . were often printed in red.”  In addition, “the directions for conducting religious services were also printed in red” such as what the Mass celebrant would say would be printed in red while the responses of the faithful would be in black ink. <https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Rubric>.

    Finally, a hyperlink for teachers describes rubric as having “evolved to mean an established custom or rule of procedure,” so that “in the 1980s, educators adopted the term as referring to a set of standards and/or directions for assessing student outcomes and guiding student learning.”  In this light, rubrics have been defined consistently as “scoring or grading guides”. . . “designed to measure the key qualities (“traits” or “dimensions”) vital to the process/product of a given assignment.” A rubric defines in writing what is expected of the student to get a particular grade on an assignment. <https://www.google.com/search?q=what+are+rubrics+for+teachers &ie=utf-8& oe=utf-8>

    A rubric then is a tool both for teachers and students.  It is useful to teachers because it guides teachers to determine to what extent or degree an expectation for a particular assignment is met by the student.  A well-crafted rubric delineates the component parts of an assigned work, whether this be an essay, an individual or group project, an art work, an oral presentation such as a report, an argument, etc. It also describes clearly the “characteristics of each component at varying levels of quality from excellent to poor.”
    Thus, rubrics “provide formative feedback to support or guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.” <https://www. cmu.edu /teaching/ design teach/teach/ rubrics. mhtml>

    On the part of students, rubrics provide them to execute their assignments in a manner as described in the rubrics. In this sense, rubrics can be valuable to students. Rubrics “communicate to students the specific requirements and acceptable performance standards of an assignment.”  Knowing and understanding the terms of assignments as described in rubrics at varying levels of mastery or excellence, rubrics can help students  “monitor and assess their progress as they work toward clearly defined goals.” Thus, rubrics teach students to evaluate the level of quality of components that make up their assignments.

    “When used as part of a formative, student-centered approach to assessment, rubrics have the potential to help students develop understanding and skill, as well as make dependable judgments about the quality of their own work.” Given this use of rubrics to students, rubrics can be used by students in many similar “ways that teachers use them—to clarify the standards for a quality performance, and to guide ongoing feedback about progress toward those standards.”  Thus, “students can more easily recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their work and direct their efforts accordingly.”

    “Rubrics as part of a formative student approach can help teachers get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their class. By recording the component scores and tallying up the number of students scoring below an acceptable level on each component, teachers can identify those skills or concepts that need more instructional time and student effort.”< Error! Hyperlink reference not valid..cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/ rubrics.html>

    As part of the orientation of the students to the course, during the first meeting, I give out different kinds of rubrics. Together, we go through the syllabus, which as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) requires, is in outcomes-based format. Given the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO’s) and the assignments that can clearly demonstrate the expected cognitive, affective and conative skills gained by a student as spelled out in the syllabus, the class refers to the rubric corresponding to the expected output/s (SLO/s) for each program objective.  Thus, students will have a clue what their grade would likely be for a specific outcome.

    Conative skills refer to “one’s ability to analyze situations in light of what one knows and how one feels and select appropriate actions.” The web has numerous sample rubrics. One can choose the most fit that he/she needs.

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    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon,PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.


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    1. hi mam…really appreciate reading this as it helps me professionally..doing a research on assessment..