A. Michelini

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Making a Rubric Together

Today, I spent some time with Bean’s chapter “Using Rubrics to Develop and Apply Grading Criteria” from Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. While I completely agree with his suggestions on including a rubric and loved all the helpful examples, I was left with some questions.

In my English 2 class, I started having the students write the rubric alongside me. We list all the important elements of a rubric up on the board (and I help supply some of them, especially if they miss major ones). Then, we might rope some together into common categories. And then, as a class, we decide how many points/percentages to ascribe to each category. When I did this for the spring semester, I even had students grade their own essays before turning them in to me for the first time, listing how many points they deserved for each section. They were amazingly accurate! Most of the time, the student ended up with the same letter grade they’d assigned themselves. This got me thinking: should I just have them grade their own papers? What is the use of commenting?

I’ve really enjoyed doing this, and would like to continue to do it, but am unsure of the research on it since rubrics are not my specialty. I know some of my colleagues are more well versed in that area, and I’m curious what they would have to say about my experimental rubric method. Which elements of this should I keep and where do you think I should go with it from here?


  1. Darius Cureton

    June 7, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    I think your experimental approach to rubrics is awesome. I’m not sure how well my students would receive it. I would have to spend extensive time discussion the function of a rubric, how it is developed and the do that for all four essays that I assign. I am curious to know how long it took you to create your rubric? Did you all create a generic rubric or task-specific ones?

    • Hey Darius, we made a generic rubric and then talked about it as each task in the class came up and how it would apply. The initial rubric took maybe 15 minutes and then each adjustment took around 5-10 minutes. Let me know how it goes if you do it!

  2. Bean mentions the researcher Bob Broad – who does a lot with “local assessment practices” which would include, what you’re talking about – the negotiation of criteria among students and their instructor. You might also look up the Asao Inue, who wrote a book on “antiracist writing assessment.” I have done this type of thing before as well and have found it very useful in terms of recognizing the dynamic and fluid nature of writing (and what we think makes up writing quality) and including students in the assessment practice. I love the practice of asking students to think about what criteria might guide the feedback/assessment practice, but I get slightly uncomfortable asking them to assign themselves grades for some reason.

  3. It’s so interesting that your students gave themselves accurate grades in their self-assessment. I’m pretty sure it was, at least partly, because they were involved in the creation and negotiation of the scoring criteria. I usually turn the rubric into a checklist for self-assessment and peer-review, but I’m going to try your approach for self-assessment and see how the students respond compared to checklists. Although I am looking forward to using the rubric for students’ self-assessment, I wouldn’t use it for peer-review because I don’t like to have students evaluate (and assign a grade to) each other’s work. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Abby,
    This is what I wondered- how would co-creating a rubric work?
    I find your results astonishing. I honestly thought you’d see the students were harsher on themselves. Maybe this is one way to cut down on comments- Draft (self grade), I comment on how to revise to grow. Revision paper- draft is revised per the comments with a reflection paragraph added at the end describing the revision decisions… hmm… so many ideas, so little time to implement!

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