Rubrics as an Assessment Tool in Distance Education

Rubrics as an Assessment Tool in Distance Education

Bonnie L. MacGregor (Bryant & Stratton College, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch268
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Abstract

Effective communication of the grading process to students is a concern that many online instructors face. The purpose of this entry is to show how the use of a rubric as an assessment tool clarifies for distance education instructors and their students the expectations, criteria, and performance levels of assignments, plus – more importantly – how the rubric details the description of the earned grade. Many student activities can be assessed similarly in a distance learning situation to the building-based environment. There are traditional assignments, such as multiple choice tests and homework, which measure students’ ability to absorb content information. Alternate assessments—such as paintings, stories, projects, essays, portfolios, journals, web page designs, simulations, group activities, PowerPoint® presentations, self-evaluations, etc.—ask the student to demonstrate their knowledge about the learning process or the quality and effectiveness of some product that they have authored.
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Introduction

Effective communication of the grading process to students is a concern that many online instructors face. The purpose of this entry is to show how the use of a rubric as an assessment tool clarifies for distance education instructors and their students the expectations, criteria, and performance levels of assignments, plus – more importantly – how the rubric details the description of the earned grade.

Many student activities can be assessed similarly in a distance learning situation to the building-based environment. There are traditional assignments, such as multiple choice tests and homework, which measure students’ ability to absorb content information. Alternate assessments—such as paintings, stories, projects, essays, portfolios, journals, web page designs, simulations, group activities, PowerPoint® presentations, self-evaluations, etc.—ask the student to demonstrate their knowledge about the learning process or the quality and effectiveness of some product that they have authored.

Herman, Aschbacher, and Winters (1992) describe the process of creating alternative assessments to include linking assessment and instruction, selecting assessment tasks, setting criteria, ensuring reliable scoring, completing student self-assessment activities, and identifying decision making moments. Often, when adopting the ideas of alternative assessments, instructors focus only on creating new and innovative activity directions without matching them to reliable scoring. Montgomery (2002) identifies that traditional grading for these alternative assessments often is through proofreader marks or teacher comments in the margins of the document that can be open to interpretation. Without specific criteria identified that match the learning objective for the activity, the grading becomes subjective and non-effective for student improvement (Andrade 2000: Herman, Aschbacher & Winters, 1992; Montgomery 2002; & Sanders, 2001).

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What Is A Rubric?

The Latin rubrica terra (or red earth) is the origin of the word “rubric.” The evolution of the word over time moved from marking sections of medieval manuscripts with red notations to the identification of various sections of rules. The term rubric today is a set of rules for grading a classroom activity that includes defining the outcomes to be evaluated at a basic through mastery level (Marzano, Pickering, & McTighe, 1993; Popham, 1997; Taggart, Phifer, Nixon, & Wood, 1998).

A rubric lists the criteria of the activity that matches the instructional performance objectives of the lesson or course. The rubric can be categorical — a simple checklist — to see if various parts of the assignment are present. It can offer details on scoring which identifies each specific criteria of the activity plus degrees of performance, usually using words that describe the levels as poor, good, better, and best. Or the rubric can be holistic where there is a summative list of characteristics sorted by performance that can be used to show overall what is exemplary, standard, or poor work. One type of rubric that can be utilized effectively to assist the communication between asynchronous teachers and students who are at a distance is called either the detailed or descriptive rubric.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Performance Level: The description of the levels of quality attainment within each criterion that are incrementally identified as low, good, better, and best.

Self-Evaluation: An activity where the student compares the rubric to their alternative assessment activity prior to final submission to the instructor; assisting students to evaluate their own work offers opportunities for editing/correcting prior to teacher grading and for self-reflection on the learning process.

Rubric: A document that identifies the instructional goals criteria of the activity plus the levels of potential performance; the rubric is distributed with the activity directions so that (1) students can monitor their own progress, process, and product quality and (2) instructors can evaluate against the rubric’s information.

Alternative Assessment: Activities developed by an instructor to assist the student identify the processes and products of learning beyond the “one right answer” approach, and where the scoring or rating criteria are distributed at the same time as the assignment directions.

Criteria: Each goal within the alternative assessment that ties into the instructional objectives of the lesson, unit, or course.

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