Introduction to Rubrics, Chapters 1-2

Stevens, Danielle D. and Antonia J. Levi. Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus, 2005. Print.

Intro to rubrics book picture

Chapters 1-2.

 So far in this text, I’ve learned some important terminology for rubrics. The left hand side of a rubric is called the dimension. I always called these categories, but thinking of them as dimensions is useful for me and for students—to think about writing as layered. The top of the rubric is called scale. Usually there are 3-5 scale levels on a rubrics. These authors also recommend no more than 6-7 dimensions (and no more than a page total). 

I have struggled with how to name the scale or proficiency levels. The authors have given some suggestions (based on others’ examples) such as: 

  • Sophisticated, competent, partly competent, not yet competent
  • Exemplary, proficient, marginal, unacceptable
  • Advanced, intermediate high, intermediate, novice
  • Distinguished, proficient, intermediate, novice
  • Excellent, competent, needs work (8-9)

 These are useful; however, I still struggle with the lower proficiency wording. Words like “marginal” and “unacceptable” are accurate but can demoralize students. I like “needs work.” I’ll have to think more about wording as I create rubrics. 

In chapter two, the authors discuss some research about student feedback that is pretty interesting. Evidently, students often don’t or can’t read the extensive written comments on their work (something I have suspected for many years) but they also don’t like terse comments like “needs better organization, thesis unclear,” etc. Rubrics can give common ground this way but having specific feedback but in a more objective, organize manner. 

The authors give six main motivators for incorporating rubrics: 

  • Rubrics provide timely feedback
  • Rubrics prepare students to use detailed feed back [sic].
  • Rubrics encourage critical thinking.
  • Rubrics facilitate communication with others.
  • Rubrics help us refine our teaching methods.
  • Rubrics level the playing field. (28).


I have definitely thought of some of these reasons like timely and detailed feedback. I hadn’t really thought about the critical thinking or level playing field though. It’s true that when I have used rubrics in the past, I stay focused more on the paper and its elements than on the particular student or his or her abilities, so I can see how it would help make grading more objective. Also by weighting parts of the rubrics (making content more points than paper formatting, for example), students understand what is more important but also what they need to work on.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *