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Realm of Rubrics.

When preparing to be an instructional designer, I considered all of the glorious elearning content, online courses, and training opportunities that I would be able to develop and implement. It was so exciting to think about all of these different areas and how I would be in a career where I am always able to learn and improve my skills as technology advances and improves. In these deep thoughts, I did not think about all of the little 'things' that I would need to focus on. While little, these 'things' are the foundation of any training session. For this post, I want to focus on working with rubrics.


Not surprisingly, the individuals I work with come with a variety of expertise. Some have extensive experience in the classroom while others are more research focused. With the variety of backgrounds in my SMEs, I've found that not all understand the role of rubrics in the classroom. So, before we get too much into the heart of it... why should we use rubrics? Rubrics help to support learning - they help the instructors to explain the goals of the project and explain to the students what is required. Rubrics help students break down or 'chunk' the information into bit-size pieces so they are able to have directions and and understanding of what is expected from them.

One of the major critiques of using rubrics is that it limits student creativity. I've been told on numerous occasions that, "When I use a rubric, my students only strive to meet the requirements and tend to limit themselves" or "I don't like to use rubrics because they have a punitive effect on the class." While rubrics may seem to have a bad reputation, they do not always need to have such a negative impact on the instructor or the students. In fact, with proper knowledge of rubrics - you should be able to find that works just for you.

There are three main types of rubrics - analytical, developmental, and holistic.

Analytical Rubrics

Are used when you want to measure the following:

  • You want to see relative strengths and weaknesses.

  • You want detailed feedback.

  • You want to assess complicated skills or performance.

  • You want students to self-assess their understanding or performance.

  • You want information for instructional planning.

Developmental Rubrics

Mostly used in measuring items without having a specific grade attached. These rubrics are also used to measure development rather than a specific task. A great example of this is writing a literature review or a term paper. You want to show that your students are on the right track without getting them stressed about a specific grade. You can use a developmental rubric to explain where the students are doing well and where they can continue to grow without discouraging them.

Holistic Rubrics

A holistic rubric would be the final rubric on the literature review or term paper as described in the above "Developmental Rubric." You are looking at a whole item and not specific items within in. Think of the flow of the paper, the the concepts connect with each other, the instructor (at this point) may not be looking to give specific feedback as that may have been done earlier.

While we've briefly touched base on the overview of different types of rubrics - I would encourage you to reach out and learn more about rubrics and how to effectively use them. As (not surprising) many of the individuals you end up working with may not have experience developing or understanding the different types and how to successfully measure student learning. Therefore, it could (and should be) your role to help them adequately understanding the part a rubric can play in a student's learning. We could spend blog post after blog post on rubrics - the right one vs. the wrong one, the good and the bad, whether they are valid or not valid in learning. However, I think the best route would be to expose you to the role rubrics can play and for you to do the research yourself. Below are a few resources to get you started. While I think the role of rubrics are an important one, there are going to be 100 faculty or instructional designers out there who will tell you otherwise.

Additional resources:

Types of Rubrics - DePaul University

For more information, please view the PDF of Using Rubrics to Assess Differentiated Learning. Created by instructional designer, Sheree Buikema from Purdue University. Sheree is a good friend and an excellent instructional designer at Purdue University.

I'd love to learn more about your experiences with rubrics. Are you a fan? What role does rubrics play at your institution?

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