Assessment Overview - Rubrics

A Rubric helps us score a performance task or project. Since this is a complex assessment, a rubric provides a way to judge and agree upon the complexity of what students learn on the task or project. Multiple-choice tests use right or wrong scoring keys and yield a percentage correct, such as 8 out of 10, or 80% of the test. Rubrics were invented to get at a much more powerful level of assessment: how well does a student know something, and how well can they show that to others? For example:

Assessment Vignette

A holistic rubric for judging the writing about King Lear and a new ending for the play might be as simple as:

Level 3: Great ending
Level 2: Ok ending
Level 1: Not so good ending

If you asked yourself about the words: Great, Ok, and Not so good, you are now asking yourself the important questions in building good rubrics. Do these words and their use together help students and teachers judge student work well? Probably not. There seems to be a lot of room for interpretation of the words and how the levels would be applied to different student work. How about these rubric wordings:

Level 4: Demonstrates real understanding of the play
Level 3: Demonstrates some understanding of the play
Level 2: Demonstrates a little understanding of the play
Level 1: Demonstrates no understanding of the play

Now you are saying, this is better, but what does "understanding" mean? And again, this is the question that we ask ourselves in assessment work all of the time: Are we showing through our rubric that we value what we assess, and assess what we value? In the above rubric, we value understanding, but the definition is not found here. OK, how about this improvement?

Areas of Importance:  Punctuation Use of King Lear References
Level 4:   all correct   many references
Level 3: mostly correct lots of references
Level 2: lots of errors not enough references
Level 1: all errors     no references

Now we are getting somewhere. We are beginning to indicate to the student more precisely what we care about, how it will be scored, and at what level they will receive praise for doing a good job. This rubric values punctuation and King Lear references. But it also values them only at the level of more or less. Could we get better at this and help the student and teacher discriminate a little better? Getting better leads us to this example:

Areas of Importance: Use of King Lear References
Level 4:      Students will construct their endings so that characters that started in the play are resolved in the new ending. Endings will make reference to these characters, or have them show up, so that there are no loose strings in the plot and its characters.

Now we know, and have indicated to students who are writing their own endings exactly what is expected if they are to receive a “4” as their grade on our rubric. Further, if two teachers use this rubric, they should be able to grade student work at the same level, because the rubric has made it possible to get agreement across teachers or scorers. This agreement across scorers means the assessment has validity and reliability because the task measures what it said it measures and because more than one scorer has rated and agreed with it.            
Now let’s look at a rubric that includes the levels of performance and some descriptors of those levels of performance:

Final Draft Process 1 2 3 4
Attempts Produces Crafts Polishes
Character        
* Complex and well defined        
* Change and grow        
* Have strong needs and wants        
Plot        
* Clear beginning, middle and end        
* Play has well defined conflict        
* Dramatic tension builds to climax        
* Satisfying and plausible conclusion        
Setting        
* Vivid and arresting        
* Influences and contributes to action        
Other        
* The play is theatrical        
* The play has stage directions        
* The play is active, driving, and exciting        

This rubric takes the indicators of curriculum content and places them down the left-hand side. It places the levels of performance across the top, and it even provides a one word descriptor for each level. This is a very strong template, or model, from which to craft your own rubric. For example, you could take this rubric just the way it is, and use it as a check-in or check-off way of communicating with students and tracking their progress as they improve their work from the level of 1 to 2 to 3 to 4.

Final Draft Process 1 2 3 4
Attempts Produces Crafts Polishes
Character        
* Complex and well defined X X    
* Change and grow 5/10 5/13    

Or you could take each of the boxes and deepen their assessment meaning from a simple check and/or a date to a written description of the performance…

Final Draft Process 1 2 3 4
Attempts Produces Crafts Polishes
Character        
* Complex and well defined The new ending of King Lear features a new role for the King The new ending for King Lear makes sense and the King’s new role is imaginative The new role for King Lear is imaginatively  crafted and makes for good theatre viewing The new role for King Lear is complex and well defined and wonderfully supports the new dramatic ending
* Change and grow 5/10 5/13    

As these changes show, the development of a rubric can go in many directions and levels. The guiding mantra is to value what you assess and assess what you value. 

A good scoring rubric will:
* Help teachers define excellence and plan how to help students achieve it.    
* Communicate to students what constitutes excellence and how to evaluate their own work.    
* Communicate goals and results to parents and others.    
* Help teachers or other raters be accurate, unbiased, and consistent in scoring.    
* Document the procedures used in making important judgments about students. (Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters, 1992)

Playwriting Rubric (MS Excel)

Portfolio Rubric (MS Excel)

Observer Comment Template: Teaching Artist and Students (MS Excel)

Adaptation Process Rubric (MS Excel)

Adaptation Monologue Rubric (MS Excel)

Rubric examples were collected from: Denver Center Theatre, Kansas City Young Audiences, New York City Department of Education, The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Walden Theatre