Rubrics and Blackboard

Filed in How-to, Interesting Technologies by on March 20, 2013

ru·bric noun \ˈrü-brik, -ˌbrik\

4: a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests 

I know, you are thinking ‘again?’  We have had several discussions on Rubrics over the past few years, but I wanted to revisit this idea and include some exciting information on rubrics and myWPI!
So lets start from the basics.  Rubrics as we all know are a set of explicit criteria that are used to quantitatively assess student work in a fair and consistent manner.  While I will concede that rubrics do take a bit of upfront effort I think that their advantages pay off in the long run.  For example rubrics can help:
  • students to focus their time on task on a given assignment.  If students have a clear understanding of the expectations of the instructor they have an opportunity to focus their efforts on the areas that matter the most to you.  While some students may take this to the extreme and agonize over every word on the rubric I think this may offer an opportunity to have a discussion with students regarding self reflection.
  • instructors to ensure that learning objectives are being met while creating a framework for their grading that streamlines processes and makes the grading criteria transparent to students (limiting future questions).
  • all of us understand what needs to be done to meet the goal.
So how do you get started on building your rubric?  If you are using myWPI, information on getting started is available from Blackboard at   Barnes Jewish College school of nursing has one of the best sites on the Blackboard Rubrics around as well:
I will not tell you that I love the rubric system in Blackboard, it does leave some functionality to be desired.  However one of the amazing powers of this tool is the ability to run reports on the items you assess via each rubric.  There are four reports available, Blackboard describes them as:

“The Rubric Evaluation Report delivers three statistics about the rubric’s use in grading the item. Rubric Overall Performance shows the average total score of all attempts scored using the rubric. Rubric Analysis shows average scores, compared against the possible points, for each criterion. Frequency Distribution shows the distribution of scores across each level of achievement.”

This has the power to provide you with granular data that can be very informative to your teaching and help with reaching your overall course objectives.
If you are not in myWPI there are still options for you.  Some people choose to go lower tech and just start out with a basic excel table while others move a bit more into the online space with tools like Rubistar.  A quick Google search will reveal many tools for rubric development that all help you to walk through the same basic steps:
  1. Identify your rubric purpose
  2. Identify the criteria for assessment of that purpose (your Y axis)
  3. determine the levels of achievement headers you would like to use (your X axis)
  4. Add descriptors of supporting evidence to each level of achievement.  Be sure to be explicit about what a paper would like like with the supporting evidence (higher levels of achievement) as well as what the paper would lack without that evidence (lower levels of achievement)
  5. Evaluate!

So this all appears to be 5 easy steps, but I would argue that this is a cycle that should result in semi-continuous reevaluation of your rubric to be sure that you are reaching your objective(s).

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