Rubrics as Formative Feedback

Providing feedback to students on writing assignments and athletic/artistic performances can be challenging. Assessing proficiency for this type of work often relies on the professional judgement of faculty who are taking a number of factors into consideration when they are grading or providing feedback.  

Subjectivity or Professional Judgement

Students often complain that feedback is subjective or that it doesn’t provide practical advice for improvement. Rubrics and rating scales are designed to overcome some of these challenges. They can make implicit qualitative judgements more explicit to students. They can also and provide ways for faculty to compare their professional judgement criteria among themselves for consistent feedback. Olympic judges have historically come under criticism for their professional judgement. Having specific component areas and levels of proficiency, has helped panels explain their scores and feedback to athletes and audience alike.

Dimensions/Component Areas

Being explicit about specific areas of expectation is key to students being empowered to be successful on assignments. Often these expectations are clearly identified in assignment instructions, but may not be as clear in faculty feedback. Aligning an assessment rubric dimensions with the expectations communicated on assignment instructions can help students make those connections.  

Levels of Proficiency/Performance

Not all rubrics are used to determine grades. Sometimes they are used to help students see their own development and progression along a proficiency continuum. This type of feedback is helpful for students to understand the qualities that they are developing and what next steps are needed.

AAC&U Examples

The picture below demonstrates how dimensions and levels of proficiency are reflected on a grading rubric.

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