A Complete Guide to Rubrics, Chapter One

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.


Chapter One: Background: What is a Rubric and Why Bother?

 Like the Introduction to Rubrics book, this text begins with creating a need for rubrics, especially in subjective grading matters like papers or presentations. The author uses the idea that teachers, especially teachers who have been teaching and grading a long time, instinctively know what grade an assignment deserves by looking at the assignment. In some ways, I think this is true. I tend to be a holistic grader and I do usually know a clear A, B, C or F paper. However, assignments aren’t always that clear either. It’s the B+/A- papers or the D papers that can still stump me at times even after 18 years of grading student essays. Of course, the main problem with instinctual or holistic grading is communicating the grade clearly to the students and making comments useful so the student can improve performance.  I agree with this. Even though I may write extensive comments on a paper, I still have students quibble over the 88/100 grade at times (although not as often as they probably should).  Using rubrics would communicate much more specifically why the student received the 88%.  I have to say that I’m already pretty sold on rubrics, but this book has given me even more reasons.


The author talks about theories in educational development and shows how rubrics can be useful no matter what kinds of learning theories an educators adheres to.


On pages 9-11, Quinlan breaks down 10 learning theories and how rubrics can be used effectively within their frameworks.  


  • For Vygotsky’s Constructivism theory, “[s]coring and instructional rubrics provide for both [actual achievement and zone of proximal] levels of achievement” (9).


  • For Skinner’s Behaviorism theory, “[r]ubrics can be designed with memorization tasks, but are not usually necessary. Rubrics can be used to help in the development of test items” (9).


  • For Piaget’s Development Theory, “[r]ubrics provide for individuality” (9).


  •  For Brain-Based Learning theories (Sylwester; Jensen), “[s]tudent generated rubrics can reduce anxiety” (9).


  • To address different learning styles (Kolb), “[r]ubrics—with student input—are perfect for all four styles and can provide for a variety of criteria” (10).


  • For Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, “[r]ubrics are supportive of student self-assessment in a variety of activities” (10).


  • For Right Brain/Left Brain learning theory (Sperry), “[r]ubrics are used to assess subjective, qualitative work” (10).


  • For the Communities of Practice theory (J Dewey), “[r]ubrics can be created for labs and other hands-on assignments, especially for cooperative group projects” (10-11).


  • For Glasser’s Control Theory,”’ [b]enchmarks’ of scoring rubrics provide the absolute standard” (11).


  • For Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, “[r]ubrics provide the model of excellence and provide assessment of creativity” (11).


I thought that this connection between learning theories and rubrics was useful. Quinlan gives specific ideas of how to use assessments and rubrics to match almost anyone’s ideas about learning and growth.

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