What can educators do?
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In this lesson, we’ll take a look at a typical rubric and explain how to use it. There are 16 VALUE rubrics in total which are intended to align with AAC&U’s essential learning outcomes. The rubric developers design these rubrics with the same basic structure and design, and I’ll use the Critical Thinking VALUE rubric as an example. The first part of each rubric is this, the cover sheet which is where you can find important information about the learning outcome, like its definition, how it’s framed in higher education and a glossary of key terms.
The next main piece is the rubric grid which includes three key components which I’ll talk about next: the rows, the columns and the performance descriptors. The rows of the grid are the criteria of the learning outcome that’s listed in the left column, which we call the rubric’s dimensions. This rubric has five dimensions, but some have six. These dimensions were chosen based on the rubric developer’s review of existing literature, rubrics and their professional experiences. And although there may be additional dimensions to these learning outcomes, these were the dimensions that were chosen as key to assessing the learning outcome within undergraduate education. The columns include the performance levels which range from four to one as you can see here. A scorer can also score zero if there’s an absence of evidence of a specific dimension. The labels for the performance levels were selected as descriptive yet neutral terms that reflect student development as you can see in these words: Capstone, two Milestones and Benchmark.
Finally, the cells where row and column intersect contain the performance descriptors which essentially include the evidence we expect to see for the given dimension at that level of proficiency. You’ll notice that there tend to be multiple behaviors listed in each cell. For a student work sample to be scored at a specific level of proficiency, there should be evidence of all behaviors in the performance descriptor. Even if one behavior is not evident, the score should look to the descriptors for the next performance level down.
Now you have an idea of the main structure of the rubric and I can share a few tips that educators find helpful as they apply the rubrics for their own purposes. When scoring using a VALUE rubric, scores are given by dimension rather than as an overall score for the entire rubric. So, a student artifact may include a score four in one dimension and a one or even a zero on another dimension. When deciding on a score, we recommend that educators start with the performance descriptors at Capstone level for each dimension and move down one performance level at a time. Work defined evidence of each behavior in the performance descriptor one at a time before settling on a score. The scores are intended to be whole numbers so as hard as it can be sometimes, try to settle on a single performance level rather than somewhere in between like 3.5 or 2.5.
In this lesson, we’ll take a look at a typical rubric and explain how to use it.
There are 16 VALUE rubrics in total, which are grouped into four themes:
- Knowledge of Human Cultures and the Physical and Natural World
- Intellectual and Practical Skills
- Personal and Social Responsibility
- Integrative and Applied Learning
Each rubric includes a coversheet that provides a common understanding of the meaning of the essential learning outcome in question, including a definition of the learning outcome, information that helps to frame our understanding of the concept, and a glossary of essential and related terms.
Below is a rubric grid with the following components:
- The rows include criteria that relate to the learning outcome of focus, which are called “dimensions.” Each rubric includes 5 or 6 dimensions, which are listed in the left-hand column. The rubric developers posited that these concepts are key to assessing the learning outcome within undergraduate education. Although there are likely to be additional important dimensions of the learning outcome that are unaccounted for in each rubric, the team of experts selected the 5 or 6 dimensions to assess student learning for this purpose.
- The four columns concern the extent of student proficiency, which are called “performance levels.” You will see columns that are concerned with the highest level of proficiency (level 4, “Capstone”) to the baseline level of proficiency (level 1, “Benchmark”). The labels for the performance levels were selected as descriptive yet neutral terms reflecting student development. Though not given a column, a zero score is applied when there is no evidence of a specific dimension.
- Where row and column intersect, there are “performance descriptors.” Each performance descriptor includes the evidence we expect to see for the given dimension at that level of proficiency. Often, there are multiple behaviors listed in each cell. In order to score student work at a specific performance level, there must be evidence of all behaviors in the performance descriptor.
When scoring using a VALUE rubric, scores are applied by dimension rather than as an overall score for the entire rubric. As such, a student artifact may include a score of 4 on one dimension and a 1 or even a zero on another dimension. If using the entire rubric, each student artifact should receive 5 or 6 individual scores depending on the number of dimensions in the rubric.
The VALUE approach is based on a backward design approach of starting with the end in mind; identify the desired outcomes first, determine the assessment evidence, and then plan the learning experience. When you design assignments, the VALUE rubric helps you ensure you are considering key aspects of the desired learning outcome and provide a clearer view of what level of proficiency your students are achieving set against national standards for liberal education.
Citing VALUE rubrics: The latest information on how to cite VALUE rubrics can be found on AAC&U’s ‘How to Cite VALUE Resources’ webpage.
Does the organization of the rubric make sense to you? Do you see room for improvement or further revision?
Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.