Focus on the evidence of learning and less on the product or the performance. Easily said, difficult to do. In fact, building a powerful 21st Century rubric to assess learning is an art. If made improperly, it could hinder the learner.
Benefits of the Rubric
Rubrics define expectations, which should be introduced to the students (and parents) before learners start working on their projects.
20th Century Rubric Flaws
I will be the first to admit, I didn't know my rubrics were flawed. Here is an example of one of mine that I used for the "book report project" that was not PBL (if this seems out of context, you may want to visit "Projects are Not PBL").
Flaw #1: Don't record grades as percentages by converting the number correct out of the total number of points.
I'd take this rubric and would habitually convert
it straight over to a percentage grade. For example, if a student scored 3 out of 4 on all areas on our Book Report Grading Rubric, I would convert 12 out of 16 points over to a 75%.
Why is converting the score on the rubric straight over to a traditional percentage grade a flaw?
The flaw is there are 2 failing grades as options (boxes 1 and 2), a barely passing grade (3), then one great grade. So, mathematically speaking, the student is doomed unless he or she gets a perfect score on everything.
Typically, there is only a 30% acceptable grade range (from 100% to 70%). This does not leave a margin for error.
How can you fix the conversion flaw?
On a rubric, the acceptable grade range should be greater than 30%, and more like a bell curve with a 50% average. This can be done by setting the "1" as 50%; the "2" closer to 70%; the "3" closer to the "B" range; and the "4" closer to the "A" range. Does it sound familiar? It should, because it is comparable to the equivalents of a 4 point scale like that on a GPA (Arter, 2009).
Having a greater acceptable range, benefits the students rather than penalizes them during the learning process. Students gain feedback from their scores by quickly seeing their strengths and areas for improvement.
Recommendation: Place this conversion on your rubric as the scoring key.
Flaw #2: The criteria doesn't match the conversion scale of learning. Instead, the criteria must have measurable descriptions aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy.
Using Bloom's Taxonomy to Create Criteria
The best rubrics are those who have degrees of understanding and climb up the Bloom’s Taxonomy. One way to stagger the matrix using Bloom’s Taxonomy is to set the “4” section with a higher level on Bloom’s Taxonomy (creating, evaluating, and analyzing); a “3” set closer to the applying level; a “2” is closer to the understanding level; while a “1” is more at a remembering level.
The key to defining those degrees of criteria is describing clearly in measurable ways the evidence of learning.
Bottom Line: A strong rubric will stagger the degrees of criteria based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, and it will represent student learning more accurately with the 4.0 conversion scale.
This post was inspired by the quote "Managing a Project requires a 21st-century set of skills…” (Reinventing PBL Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age, p 75); the fabulous AJUSD teachers enrolled in our current Prospector University class; and Patrick Ledesma's articles on Choice 2.0.