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Rubrics: The Key to Authentic Assessment

In order to ensure a careful evaluation of the authentic learning process in your classroom, carefully crafted rubrics are a must. In my years of teaching I have come to embrace rubrics, using them every chance I get. Rubrics offer students a glimpse into how they will be assessed and allow for a range of comments concerning effort, creativity, skill acquisition, and demonstration of ability. Students are able to see areas of strength while focusing on areas needing improvement.

Rubrics usually have three important areas of information:
• the Criteria, or skill areas to be evaluated;
• the Descriptors of these criteria, longer statements about each criterion; and
• the Levels of Performance, that illustrate the highest and lowest levels of understanding.

I do not use the words Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor when creating levels of performance. I prefer to relate them to the subject or discipline. For example, an assignment relating to writing a newspaper article would have a top level of National Publication and a low level of School Newspaper. An art project might carry the levels National Museum, State Museum, Local Gallery, and School Wall. The words excellent and poor don’t pack the same authentic punch as the ones listed above. Students should never think of themselves as failures, but should look for skills to improve. Using these levels lets them know how positive it is to have their work published in a school newspaper or displayed on a fridge or school wall.

If creating a rubric is new to you, I suggest that you visit the rubistar website or the Authentic Assessment Toolbox. Both of these websites provide a wealth of novice, intermediate, and seasoned advice. Rubistar even creates rubrics for you. You can begin simply, in template fashion, or work through your own ideas and criteria.

Have fun!

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