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The evaluation scale can be either holistic or analytical—or a combination of the two. A holistic rubric consists of a single scale—all factors that are to be evaluated are identified together for each level of performance. It might be a checklist or a description of each attainable level of performance. Continuing our example of business-letter writing, the criteria for business letters might address the letter's content, organization, style, focus, and conventions. Descriptions of these criteria at the mastery level might be: All necessary information was presented clearly and concisely. Content had logical organization. Business-letter form was maintained. All contact information was complete. Letter showed command of sentence structure, grammar and punctuation. Spelling and word usage were correct. Holistic rubrics are quicker to develop and learn, quicker to score, and quicker to find agreement among various evaluators than are analytical rubrics. Because they produce a single score, they are most effective when the elements being assessed are closely related. However, they do not give as much feedback to students, and so they are more difficult to use as a learning tool than analytical rubrics. Two different business letters can earn the same score for very different reasons. Analytical rubrics, on the other hand, are excellent tools for teaching as well as for assessment. An analytical rubric consists of multiple, separate scales, and therefore provides a set of scores rather than just one. The multiple scales enable students to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses related to each criterion. Looking again at the business-letter writing example, the key aspects of each criterion (i.e., content, organization, style, focus, and conventions) would be described separately for each level of performance. For each criterion, a scale of descriptors is developed. These are phrases or sentences that describe the quality of the performance along a continuum of performance levels. Levels of performance are used to designate the quality, or how well, the student performed each of the descriptors. A student's performance can vary across all performance levels, e.g., some aspects of a student's writing ability might be Professional, while other aspects might be at a Novice level or anywhere in between. An example of a portion of an analytical rubric is presented in the following figure.
The analytical rubric provides feedback to students by letting them know exactly which elements of the skill were mastered and which need more practice. While it is an excellent teaching tool, the analytical rubric does take longer to learn well and more time to score. Scores attained for the various criteria may be combined to make a final score. Several factors should be considered in choosing the type of rubric. The first is the complexity of the skill. Complex skills require complex scales for adequate evaluation. Simpler skills may require only a checklist. In addition, the degree of mastery expected with a skill should be contemplated. Consider the purpose of the assessment. Is the rubric being used to introduce a new skill or as a capstone to a unit of teaching? Those skills being introduced for the first time, with no expectation of mastery, may best be evaluated with a simple rubric.
Types of rubrics
Although there are thousands of variations, rubrics can generally be sorted into one of two groups: holistic rubrics and list rubrics.
Types of holistic rubrics include
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Grid rubrics, Mixed-criteria rubrics, and Open-column rubrics.
Types of list rubrics include
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Checklists, Combination rubrics, and Total points rubrics.
Types of holistic rubrics
Grid rubrics are designed in rows and columns, with each row describing a different characteristic of a task, product, or performance and each column describing a different level of quality. The rows (characteristics) and columns (levels of quality) intersect to form a grid that describes the characteristics expected for each level of quality. Click here to see an example of a grid rubric.
Mixed-criteria rubrics have only one column, with several rows describing the various levels of quality (usually with the highest at the top and the lowest at the bottom). Each row lists the level of quality and then all of the characteristics of a task, product, or performance at that level. Click here to see an example of a mixed-criteria rubric.
Open-column rubrics have just one row, with several columns describing the various levels of quality. It appears similar to the grid rubric, but it does not have the row descriptors in the leftmost column. Instead, each column includes a more detailed description of a particular level of quality. Open-column rubrics are particularly effective when used to describe concepts or skills which students improve or develop. In this case, the column describing the lowest level of quality may include items considered "basic". The next level would include all of the basic items as well as a few more intermediate skills. The highest level would include both basic and intermediate skills as well as more advanced skills. Click here to see an example of an open-column rubric.
Types of list rubrics
Checklist rubrics are simply lists of criteria that are checked off as completed. They are often used to make clear the specific directions or procedures that need to be followed or to spell out everything that needs to be included in an assignment or project.
Strengths Checklists are simple and straightforward, and they show students exactly what must be done or what an end products must be like. Checklists are particularly effective for students who are learning or practicing various skills, as they provide the details of how to proceed. Weaknesses Because they are simply "check-off" forms, checklists do not allow teachers to identify different levels of quality. There is only one expectation for students (when completing assignments) and teachers (when evaluating assignments), and that is "done".
Combination rubrics include methods for both detailed feedback, a la the checklist, and bigger picture evaluation, as with holistic rubrics. The list of grading criteria is grouped under major category headings. While the categories are graded on a more holistic scale, the details beneath each are marked with a plus or minus to show areas of strength and weakness. Strengths Because of their dual nature, combination rubrics are often the most instructive type of rubric. They provide students with the detailed feedback they need to improve, while giving them a bigger-picture view of their overall progress. Plus, by organizing grading criteria into major and subcriteria, combination rubrics help present difficult or complex information more clearly. Weaknesses The major weakness of combination rubrics is that their rating scales may be somewhat subjective. If the major categories of a combination rubric are rated on a numbered scale, for example, different numbers may mean different things to different studentsand often nothing close to what the teacher intends. (This is particularly true at the beginning of the year, before students have learned what each rating means. Teachers can avoid this problem by providing a key to their rating scale and using the same scale throughout the year.) Click here to see an example of a combination rubric.
Total points rubrics
Total points rubrics are very similar to combination rubrics, in that they have major criteria that is scored holistically, with specific details underneath that are marked to indicate strengths and weaknesses. The major difference between combination rubrics and total points rubrics is that each category of a total points rubric is assigned a certain number of points which are then added together to produce a total score.
Strengths Total points rubrics work well if you want to weight certain parts of an assignment, giving more credit for some parts than others. Total points rubrics also help communicate to students which areas are more or less important on an assignment, helping to better focus their efforts. Weaknesses With a total points rubric in hand, it is easy for students to lose focus on the meaningfulness of the assignment or the satisfaction of doing it well, and instead turn their efforts toward maximizing point values. When this happens, students may be less likely to try new strategies or experiment with ideas. Click here to see an example of a total points rubric.
Types of rubrics
Rubrics are generally categorized as generic or task-specific. As is so often the case in assessment, the line between the two categories may blur so that rating instruments appear more or less generic or task-specific. Indeed, many task-based rubrics are adaptations of generic scales. It is also possible to design hybrid rubrics that combine features of both types.
Generic rubrics can be applied to a number of different tasks. In language assessment, one frequently finds generic rubrics used with assessment tasks within a modality (generally writing and speaking) or mode (interpersonal and presentational). A truly generic rubric could be applied to any task within the same modality or mode. The dimensions in a generic rubric for second-language assessment often emphasize features of language production, such as comprehensibility, accuracy, and vocabulary, without making reference to specific content or task details. Generic rubrics are often derived from models of language proficiency and/or second language acquisition. Figure 1 shows a sample generic, analytic rubric for oral presentations (presentational mode) for Intermediate level learners adapted from the ACTFL Performance Guidelines for K-12 Learners (K-12 Guidelines). This example reflects a focus on features of second-language production, but additional dimensions might be included in order to measure such aspects of oral presentation as content coverage, organization, connection with audience, elocution, use of graphics, and so on. The terminology in Figure 1 is accessible to language-teaching professionals, but it may not provide meaningful feedback to learners. Large-scale and external assessments for purposes such as certification, placement, articulation, and program
evaluation often use generic scales that contain a high degree of professional language and require modification for classroom use. A high school French teacher who commented on the rubric in Figure 1 indicated that, for classroom use, he prefers a rubric with short descriptors that he can take in at a glance and that serve primarily to refresh his memory of what performance is like at each step on the scale. Because he has only a few seconds to evaluate each student, and because he wants to spend as little class time as possible explaining the terms in the rubric to his students, he preferes simple vocabulary that neither he nor his students must ponder (J.-L. Roche, personal communication, October 22, 2002). Figure 2 presents an adaptation of the oral presentation generic rubric for classroom use. It is certainly most efficient to design or identify rubrics that can be used for multiple purposes, but when weighing the use of generic versus task-based rubrics, efficiency is not the only important criterion. Tedick (2002) writes: "While some rubrics are created in such a way as to be generic in scope for use with any number of writing or speaking tasks, it is best to consider the task first and make sure that the rubric represents a good fit with the task and your instructional objectives. Just as a variety of task-types should be used in language classrooms, so should a variety of rubrics and checklists be used for assessing performance on those tasks. (p. 37)" For learners who are new to performance assessment and evaluation, Tedick recommends making students comfortable with the process by first using generic rubrics and gradually introducing task-specific rubrics. Task-specific rubrics are used with particular tasks, and their criteria and descriptors reflect specific features of the elicited performance. Rubrics developed for a defined group of tasks within a modality or mode, such as writing narratives, performing roleplays, or exchanging e-mail messages may combine elements of language production with dimensions related to the content and language function(s) of the lesson/task. For example, if an assessment task requires learners to use a series of pictures to tell a story in the past about a visit to monuments in Paris, the scoring criteria would focus on language competencies related to narration in past tense along with one or more dimensions measuring content and cultural knowledge. A possible rubric for this task is shown in Figure 3. Rubrics that combine features of generic and task-specific rubrics are very useful in classroom assessment because they provide feedback to learners on broad dimensions of language production along with their performance on the particular competencies and knowledge targeted by course content and aligned assessments. When adapting the rubrics for other tasks, teachers may keep the generic language production elements as they are and change one or two categories to focus on task expectations. For example, one might add level-appropriate, generic dimensions such as pronunciation or fluency to the task-specific categories of narration, use of past tense, and knowledge about monuments of Paris to the rubric in Figure 3. Holistic, analytic, primary trait and multiple trait rubrics may be seen as different ways of selecting and organizing rating criteria. These rubric types come from different contexts, and although their particular uses and characteristics have
converged in current practice, there are some general guidelines for choosing among them. In addition, each type has advantages and disadvantages. In practice, you will probably find considerable variability in how rubric types are identified. Holistic and analytic scales may be identified as generic or task-specific, or they may include rating criteria of both types. Primary and multiple trait rubrics are essentially task-specific, but general language production categories may be added to multiple trait rubrics.
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