Program Assessment



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Developing and Using Rubrics for Assessing,

Grading, and Improving Student Writing
Mary Allen (mallen@csub.edu)

Humboldt State University

November 7, 2009


Program Assessment



Program assessment is an on-going process designed to monitor and improve student learning. Faculty:

  • develop explicit statements of what students should learn (SLOs).

  • verify that the program is designed to foster this learning (alignment).

  • develop a meaningful, manageable, sustainable assessment plan.

  • collect empirical data that indicate student attainment (assessment data).

  • assess the evidence and reach a conclusion (students’ level of mastery is satisfactory or disappointing).

  • use these data to improve student learning (close the loop).


Rubrics provide the criteria for classifying products or behaviors into categories that vary along a continuum. They can be used to classify virtually any product or behavior, such as essays, research reports, portfolios, works of art, recitals, oral presentations, performances, and group activities. Rubrics can be used to provide formative feedback to students, to grade students, and/or to assess courses or programs.
There are two major types of scoring rubrics:

  • Holistic scoring — one global, holistic score for a product or behavior

  • Analytic rubrics — separate scoring of specified characteristics of a product or behavior


Rubric Examples
Rubrics have many strengths:


  • Complex products or behaviors can be examined efficiently.

  • Developing a rubric helps to precisely define faculty expectations.

  • Well-trained reviewers apply the same criteria and standards.

  • Rubrics are criterion-referenced, rather than norm-referenced. Raters ask, “Did the student meet the criteria for level 5 of the rubric?” rather than “How well did this student do compared to other students?” This is more compatible with cooperative and collaborative learning environments than competitive grading schemes and is essential when using rubrics for program assessment because you want to learn how well students have met your standards.



Rubrics can be used for grading, as well as assessment.
Here’s an assessment rubric—an analytic rubric with

three dimensions for assessing oral presentation skills.



Rubric for Assessing Oral Presentations




Below Expectation

Satisfactory

Exemplary


Organization

No apparent organization. Evidence is not used to support assertions.


The presentation has a focus and provides some evidence which supports conclusions.


The presentation is carefully organized and provides convincing evidence to support conclusions.

Content

The content is inaccurate or overly general. Listeners are unlikely to learn anything or may be misled.



The content is generally accurate, but incomplete. Listeners may learn some isolated facts, but they are unlikely to gain new insights about the topic.

The content is accurate and complete. Listeners are likely to gain new insights about the topic.



Delivery

The speaker appears anxious and uncomfortable, and reads notes, rather than speaks. Listeners are largely ignored.

The speaker is generally relaxed and comfortable, but too often relies on notes. Listeners are sometimes ignored or misunderstood.

The speaker is relaxed and comfortable, speaks without undue reliance on notes, and interacts effectively with listeners.



Alternative Format 1.

Points are assigned and used for grading, as shown below, and the categories (Below Expectation, Satisfactory, Exemplary) can be used for assessment. Faculty who share an assessment rubric might:



  • assign points in different ways, depending on the nature of their courses

  • decide to add more rows for course-specific criteria or comments.

Notice how this rubric allows faculty, who may not be experts on oral presentation skills, to give detailed formative feedback to students. This feedback describes present skills and indicates what students should do to improve. Effective rubrics can help faculty reduce the time they spend grading and eliminate the need to repeatedly write the same comments to multiple students.


Rubric for Grading Oral Presentations




Below Expectation

Satisfactory

Exemplary


Score


Organization

No apparent organization. Evidence is not used to support assertions.

(0-4)


The presentation has a focus and provides some evidence which supports conclusions.

(5-6)


The presentation is carefully organized and provides convincing evidence to support conclusions.

(7-8)





Content

The content is inaccurate or overly general. Listeners are unlikely to learn anything or may be misled.

(0-8)


The content is generally accurate, but incomplete. Listeners may learn some isolated facts, but they are unlikely to gain new insights about the topic.

(9-11)


The content is accurate and complete. Listeners are likely to gain new insights about the topic.

(12-13)





Delivery

The speaker appears anxious and uncomfortable, and reads notes, rather than speaks. Listeners are largely ignored.

(0-5)


The speaker is generally relaxed and comfortable, but too often relies on notes. Listeners are sometimes ignored or misunderstood.

(6-7)


The speaker is relaxed and comfortable, speaks without undue reliance on notes, and interacts effectively with listeners.
(8-9)




Total Score





Alternative Format 2.

Weights are used for grading; categories (Below Expectation, Satisfactory, Exemplary) can be used for assessment. Individual faculty determine how to assign weights for their course grading. Faculty may circle or underline material in the cells to emphasize criteria that were particularly important during the assessment/grading, and they may add a section for comments or other grading criteria.





Rubric for Grading Oral Presentations




Below Expectation

Satisfactory

Exemplary


Weight


Organization

No apparent organization. Evidence is not used to support assertions.


The presentation has a focus and provides some evidence which supports conclusions.


The presentation is carefully organized and provides convincing evidence to support conclusions

30%


Content

The content is inaccurate or overly general. Listeners are unlikely to learn anything or may be misled.


The content is generally accurate, but incomplete. Listeners may learn some isolated facts, but they are unlikely to gain new insights about the topic.

The content is accurate and complete. Listeners are likely to gain new insights about the topic.


50%


Delivery

The speaker appears anxious and uncomfortable, and reads notes, rather than speaks. Listeners are largely ignored.

The speaker is generally relaxed and comfortable, but too often relies on notes. Listeners are sometimes ignored or misunderstood.

The speaker is relaxed and comfortable, speaks without undue reliance on notes, and interacts effectively with listeners.


20%


Comments




Alternative Format 3.

Some faculty prefer to grade holistically, rather than through assigning numbers. In this example, the faculty member checks off characteristics of the speech and determines the grade based on a holistic judgment. The categories (Below Expectation, Satisfactory, Exemplary) can be used for assessment. Individual faculty might add scores or score ranges (see original example) or a “Weight” column (see Alternative Format 1) for grading purposes.





Rubric for Grading Oral Presentations




Below Expectation

Satisfactory

Exemplary


Organization

  • No apparent organization.

  • Evidence is not used to support assertions.




  • The presentation has a focus.

  • Student provides some evidence which supports conclusions.

  • The presentation is carefully organized.

  • Speaker provides convincing evidence to support conclusions

Content

  • The content is inaccurate or overly general.

  • Listeners are unlikely to learn anything or may be misled.




  • The content is generally accurate, but incomplete.

  • Listeners may learn some isolated facts, but they are unlikely to gain new insights about the topic.

  • The content is accurate and complete.

  • Listeners are likely to gain new insights about the topic.




Delivery

  • The speaker appears anxious and uncomfortable.

  • Speaker reads notes, rather than speaks.

  • Listeners are largely ignored.

  • The speaker is generally relaxed and comfortable.

  • Speaker too often relies on notes.

  • Listeners are sometimes ignored or misunderstood.

  • The speaker is relaxed and comfortable.

  • Speaker speaks without undue reliance on notes.

  • Speaker interacts effectively with listeners.


Alternative Format 4.

Combinations of Various Ideas. As long as the nine assessment cells are used in the same way by all faculty, grading and assessment can be done simultaneously.





Rubric for Grading Oral Presentations




Below Expectation

1

Satisfactory

2

Exemplary

3


Weight

Organization

  • No apparent organization.

  • Evidence is not used to support assertions.




  • The presentation has a focus.

  • Speaker provides some evidence which supports conclusions.

  • The presentation is carefully organized.

  • Speaker provides convincing evidence to support conclusions

20%


Content

  • The content is inaccurate or overly general.

  • Listeners are unlikely to learn anything or may be misled.




  • The content is generally accurate, but incomplete.

  • Listeners may learn some isolated facts, but they are unlikely to gain new insights about the topic.

  • The content is accurate and complete.

  • Listeners are likely to gain new insights about the topic.




40%


Delivery

  • The speaker appears anxious and uncomfortable.

  • Speaker reads notes, rather than speaks.

  • Listeners are largely ignored.

  • The speaker is generally relaxed and comfortable.

  • Speaker too often relies on notes.

  • Listeners are sometimes ignored or misunderstood.

  • The speaker is relaxed and comfortable.

  • Speaker speaks without undue reliance on notes.

  • Speaker interacts effectively with listeners.

20%


References

  • Speaker fails to integrate journal articles into the speech.

  • Speaker integrates 1 or 2 journal articles into the speech.

  • Speaker integrates 3 or more journal articles into the speech.

20%




Assessment vs. Grading Concerns


  • Grading requires more precision than assessment.

  • Grading rubrics sometimes include extra criteria beyond the corresponding assessment rubric.

  • When you are assessing and grading simultaneously, separate out the assessment findings.

  • If multiple faculty will use the rubric for grading or assessment, consider calibrating them. This is especially important when doing assessment.



Rubrics Can:

  • Speed up grading

  • Provide routine formative feedback to students

  • Clarify expectations to students

  • Reduce student grade complaints

  • Make grading and assessment more effective by focusing the faculty member on important dimensions

  • Help you create better assignments that ensure that students display what you want them to demonstrate



Suggestions for Using Rubrics in Courses


  1. Hand out the grading rubric with the assignment so students will know your expectations and how they'll be graded. This should help students master your learning outcomes by guiding their work in appropriate directions.

  2. Use a rubric for grading student work and return the rubric with the grading on it. Faculty save time writing extensive comments; they just underline or highlight relevant segments of the rubric. Some faculty include room for additional comments on the rubric page, either within each section or at the end.

  3. Develop a rubric with your students for an assignment or group project. Students can then monitor themselves and their peers using agreed-upon criteria that they helped develop. Many faculty find that students will create higher standards for themselves than faculty would impose on them.

  4. Have students apply your rubric to some sample products before they create their own. Faculty report that students are quite accurate when doing this, and this process should help them evaluate their own products as they are being developed. The ability to evaluate, edit, and improve draft documents is an important skill.

  5. Have students exchange paper drafts and give peer feedback using the rubric, then give students a few days before the final drafts are turned in to you. You might also require that they turn in the draft and scored rubric with their final paper.

  6. Have students self-assess their products using the grading rubric and hand in the self-assessment with the product; then faculty and students can compare self- and faculty-generated evaluations.



Examples of Rubric Category Labels


  • Beginner, Developing, Acceptable, Exemplary

  • Does Not Meet Expectations, Almost Meets Expectations, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations

  • Novice, Developing, Proficient, Expert

  • Beginner, Developing, Acceptable, Accomplished

  • Emerging, Developing, Proficient, Insightful

  • Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced (AAC&U Board of Directors, Our Students Best Work, 2004)



Creating a Rubric


  1. Adapt an already-existing rubric.

  2. Analytic Method

  3. Expert-Systems Method



Managing Group Readings


  1. One reader/document

  2. Two independent readers/document, perhaps with a third reader to resolve discrepancies

  3. Paired readers



Before inviting colleagues to a group reading,


    1. Develop and pilot test the rubric.

    2. Select exemplars of weak, medium, and strong student work.

    3. Develop a recording system.


Inter-Rater Reliability


    • Correlation Between Readers

    • Discrepancy Index


Scoring Rubric Group Orientation and Calibration





  1. Describe the purpose for the review, stressing how it fits into program assessment plans. Explain that the purpose is to assess the program, not individual students or faculty, and describe ethical guidelines, including respect for confidentiality and privacy.

  2. Describe the nature of the products that will be reviewed, briefly summarizing how they were obtained.

  3. Describe the scoring rubric and its categories. Explain how it was developed.

  4. Explain that readers should rate each dimension of an analytic rubric separately, and they should apply the criteria without concern for how often each category is used.

  5. Give each reviewer a copy of several student products that are exemplars of different levels of performance. Ask each volunteer to independently apply the rubric to each of these products, and show them how to record their ratings.

  6. Once everyone is done, collect everyone’s ratings and display them so everyone can see the degree of agreement. This is often done on a blackboard, with each person in turn announcing his/her ratings as they are entered on the board. Alternatively, the facilitator could ask raters to raise their hands when their rating category is announced, making the extent of agreement very clear to everyone and making it very easy to identify raters who routinely give unusually high or low ratings.

  7. Guide the group in a discussion of their ratings. There will be differences, and this discussion is important to establish standards. Attempt to reach consensus on the most appropriate rating for each of the products being examined by inviting people who gave different ratings to explain their judgments. Usually consensus is possible, but sometimes a split decision is developed, e.g., the group may agree that a product is a “3-4” split because it has elements of both categories. You might allow the group to revise the rubric to clarify its use, but avoid allowing the group to drift away from the learning outcome being assessed.

  8. Once the group is comfortable with the recording form and the rubric, distribute the products and begin the data collection.

  9. If you accumulate data as they come in and can easily present a summary to the group at the end of the reading, you might end the meeting with a discussion of five questions:

    1. Are results sufficiently reliable?

    2. What do the results mean? Are we satisfied with the extent of students’ learning?

    3. Who needs to know the results?

    4. What are the implications of the results for curriculum, pedagogy, or student support services?

    5. How might the assessment process, itself, be improved?

Assessment Standards: How Good Is Good Enough?
Examples:

  1. We would be satisfied if at least 80% of the students are at level 3 or higher.

  2. We would be satisfied if no more than 5% of students are at level 1 and at least 80% are at level 3.

  3. We would be satisfied if at least 80% of the students are at level 3 and at least 10% are at level 4.



Let’s Draft Some Rubrics!


  1. Draft an assessment rubric for each type of writing students learn in your program.

  2. Receive feedback on your drafts from someone in the room.

  3. I’ll circulate and provide help.



Developing Your Rubric


  1. Keep your writing assignment in mind. Customize the rubric for this assignment.

  2. Write in the category label for each performance level (see page 8).

  3. Add the dimension names in the first column (see page 2 for an example)

  4. Add the criteria for each cell. You might like to:

    1. Start at the extremes. Begin with levels 1 and 4.

    2. Start in the middle—what is a 2.5—the dividing point between satisfactory and less than satisfactory writing? Begin with levels 2 and 3.

  5. Add a reasonable standard for students graduating from your program (see the top of this page).

  6. Draft ways that you and your colleagues could adapt the assessment rubric for grading (see pages 3-6 for examples).



Last Step: Pick a Partner


  1. Role play sharing the rubric with colleagues in your department.

  2. Explain each assessment rubric, its categories, its dimensions, and the standard. Explain how to use it for assessment of students’ writing in your program.

  3. Explain the ways that individual faculty could adapt the rubric for grading.

  4. If time permits, discuss other ways that faculty might integrate the rubric into their courses to improve student writing.



Rubric for Assessing






1


2


3


4














































































Standard: We’d be satisfied if:

Rubric for Assessing






1


2


3


4














































































Standard: We’d be satisfied if:

Writing Rubric Examples*

HOLISTIC RUBRICS

SAT Scoring Guide 2

Subject A Scoring Guide (University of CA) 4

Advanced Placement English Literary Analysis Scoring Guide 5

Advanced Placement English Persuasive Scoring Guide 6

GENERAL EVALUATION RUBRIC FOR PAPERS (Fordham University) 7

Business Communication Capabilities (Cal State, East Bay) 9

Engineering Communication (University of Delaware) 10

Writing Rubric (Johnson Community College) 11

Writing (Palomar) 12


ANALYTIC RUBRICS

Rubric for Action Research Report (U. of Michigan) 13

Engineering Rubric (U. of Alabama) 16

Teaching Philosophy Statement Scoring Rubric 17

MBA Problem Solving Rubric (Cal State, East Bay) 18

MBA Written Communication Rubric (Cal State, East Bay) 19

Business Plan Rubric (Walton) 20

Financial Case Analysis (The College of St. Scholastica) 21

Business Writing (CSU Fullerton) 23

MIS Group Project Rubric (University of Prince Edward Island) 24

First-Year Writing Rubric (College of New Jersey) 26

Writing Rubric (Northeastern Illinois University) 27

Writing Rubric (Roanoke College) 28

Research Process Rubric (North High) 29

English Language Arts Persuasive Writing Rubric (Greece Central Sch. Dist.) 30

Rubric for a Research Project 32

WRITTEN COMMUNICATION VALUE RUBRIC (AAC&U) 33

Information Competence (CA State University) 36





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