Rubrics are a great way to score a project or problem. However, well-designed rubrics can be more than a tool of tabulation. When created before the project or problem is introduced to students, the rubric can help ensure alignment between the entry event and the student-created culminating product. Similarly, rubrics should be used by students to identify needs to be met and serve as a recurring checkpoint along the creation process.
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NTN Rubric Vocabulary
Let’s start by reviewing language that NTN uses to describe the parts of a rubric.
Score Levels: Each column of the rubric that is used to define a score for students. We have four major Score Levels:
Each rubric also has score levels to allow for "in between" score levels:
- E/D (Emerging/Developing)
- D/P (Developing/Proficient)
- P/A (Proficient/Advanced)
Descriptors or Indicators: The descriptions that students must meet in order to be scored on a score level.
Domains: Rows on the rubric, corresponding to skills within a Learning Outcome.
Step One: Select Indicators to Assess
Select domains and indicators to assess in your project by accessing the NTN Learning Outcome Rubrics.
Start by looking at the Knowledge and Thinking rubric in your grade level and subject area, if it applies. (Not all grade levels and subject areas have NTN Knowledge and Thinking Rubrics.) Select 1-2 domains to target for the project you are designing.
Repeat this process for the other NTN Learning Outcomes you are going to target and assess in this project from the Collaboration, Written Communication, Oral Communication, and Agency rubrics. Be sure to select only 1-2 domains from each Learning Outcome. Remember, you’ll need to scaffold and assess these skills just like you do standards, so thinking “less is more” will keep your project to a reasonable scope!
Hint: Keep a record of the domains and indicators you have selected to target in the “Begin With the End in Mind” section of your Project Planning Toolkit.
Step Two: Use a Template to Build Your Rubric
Open and create a copy of the appropriate NTN Rubric Template. Using the NTN Learning Outcome Rubrics, build your custom rubric by copying and pasting domain indicators into the template.
Step Three: Add Standard-Specific and Project-Specific Indicators
In many projects, students will be assessed on content standards in addition to the NTN Learning Outcomes. In this case, rubric designers can add a “Content” row to their custom rubric. To do this, right click on any row of the rubric and select “Insert row above, “ or “Insert row below.”
Then, build your own descriptors for additional content knowledge or skills you will focus on during the project.
Utilize your content area standards for language to use in a custom rubric. Begin with writing a descriptor for the “proficient” criteria using language from your content standards. Then, consider what “emerging” and “developing” might look like, while trying to avoid the word “not.” Finally, think about what an “advanced” indicator might be. In this case, consider deeper thinking rather than increased demands.
Step Four: Determine Scores
If you will be providing grades based on this rubric, determine how you will do that in a way that prioritizes learning growth and acknowledges where learners start. Make sure to consider percentages; if your rubric has only a small amount of points, percentages can drop quickly.
Additionally, percentages should line up with reasonable expectations given how much you have taught and students have practiced. Keep in mind that on the NTN Learning Outcome Rubrics for High School, “Advanced” is meant to represent college-level work. Including this on the rubric is meant to help students be prepared for post-secondary expectations. Likewise, on the Elementary and Middle School Learning Outcome Rubrics, the “Advanced” column is meant to describe above-grade level work. Facilitators should adjust language and score levels to assess and grade students fairly while also helping them understand their performance in a larger context.
Step Five: Utilize Your Rubric Throughout the Unit
Now that you’ve created a fantastic rubric for your project or problem, plan to use the rubric throughout the unit! Rubrics can be useful for:
- Student goal-setting
- Team contract creation (see “How do I use team contracts to support collaboration in PBL?”)
- Student reflection and self-assessment at Benchmarks throughout the project
- Peer assessment and feedback at Benchmarks throughout the project (see “What is a peer assessment and how do I add one to my course?” in the Echo Help Desk and “Targeted Peer Assessment” in NTN Assessment Practices card set)