Designing an Assessment Rubric Step-by-Step





Step 1: Lesson Objective



Identify the key elements of a successful student performance.
Describe how a student would successfully complete the process or product related to the lesson objective. It may help to complete the performance yourself or create a concrete example.
Identify the concepts or skills that will be captured if students achieve this lesson objective.

Example:
Students will demonstrate effective strategies for searching the database using terms related to their research topic and iterative searches
Students will interpret finding aids to identify and select primary resources from the database for potential research use
Step 2: AssessmentSelect a related assessment for that learning objective.The performance should be observable and measurable.You may want to measure the product of student performance and/or the process students use to achieve the lesson objective

Example: Instructor will observe as students locate resources for their topic at the end of class.This example assessment measures a process (searching the finding aid database) but could also measure a product (students’ search results).

Step 3: Describe Student Success

Identify the key elements of a successful student performance.
Describe how a student would successfully complete the process or product related to the lesson objective. It may help to complete the performance yourself or create a concrete example.
Identify the concepts or skills that will be captured if students achieve this lesson objective.

Example:
Students will demonstrate effective strategies for searching the database using terms related to their research topic and iterative searches
Students will interpret finding aids to identify and select primary resources from the database for potential research use

Step 4: Establish Assessment Criteria




List the criteria you will use to score each concept or skill. Common criteria include binary measures (yes/no) or measures of magnitude (numerical/descriptive levels).
What are your highest expectations for student performance?

What are the biggest mistakes that might trip students up? Write a description for each level of your performance measure. It is usually helpful to start with the highest and lowest levels (best and poorest performances) and then describe the levels in between.

Rubrics are most effective when there are three to five levels on the scale of magnitude. If you want to describe more than three levels of magnitude but find it difficult to tease out the difference between the inner measures, pilot your basic rubric once or twice and then try to expand it based on your observations of real-life student performance.

Example:  
Students will demonstrate effective strategies for searching the database using terms related to their research topic
Best performance: Student uses different types of search language (controlled vocabulary, keywords) to use in the finding aid database and refines search strategies as necessary based on search results. Student uses advanced search features.  
Average performance: Student generates at least one search term to use in the finding aid database and begins to understand how to refine search strategies as necessary based on search results (using different search language, different search features).
Poor performance: Student has difficulty defining search terms related to the research topic. Student does not refine search strategies as necessary based on search results.

Step 5: Create your Rubric

Rubrics aren’t just for formal, summative assessments like grading papers – they can be useful for formative assessments too. Rubrics allow you to map your assessment criteria visually so that you can quickly gather data about student performance.

Your rubric should include all the elements you’ve identified in steps 1-4 and can be laid out into a table format, as in the example below. If you are scoring or grading the performance, you should information like point values on the rubric.

An example of rubric criteria tied to the Guidelines for Primary Source literacy can be found at [Link to Guidelines Rubric]. For other examples of information literacy
rubrics, visit the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy Sandbox, http://sandbox.acrl.org/

Sample Rubric

Lesson Objective: Students will be able to use the finding aid database to identify and request resources on a given research project.


(1) Marginal/Does not meet expectations

(2) Proficient/Meets expectations

(3) Exemplary/Exceeds expectations
Students will demonstrate effective search strategies
Has difficulty defining search terms related to the research topic. Student shows poor grasp of how to use finding aid database and does not refine search strategies as necessary based on search results.Generates at least one search term to use in the finding aid database and begins to understand how to refine search strategies as necessary based on search results (using different search language, different search features).Uses different types of search language (controlled vocabulary, keywords) to use in the finding aid database and refines search strategies as necessary based on search results. Understands and uses advanced search features.  
Students will interpret finding aids to identify and select primary resources
Does not assess or marginally assesses finding aid content. Demonstrates little understanding of how to evaluate finding aid content against the information need. Assesses content of at least one finding aid. Begins to evaluate finding aid content against the information need and identifies a primary source which might answer the research question.Assesses content of at least one finding aid. Evaluates finding aid content against the information need and identifies a primary source which might answer the research question. Refines search strategies and research questions based on results.
Step 6: ImplementDepending on the assessment you’ve designed, your rubric and measurement process may vary in how formally you implement it.

For this assessment example, “Instructor will observe as students locate resources for their topic at the end of class,” a simple tally of how many students fall under each measure might be sufficient. If students were asked to hand in a list of primary sources or a copy of their search results at the end of class, the sample rubric would provide the instructor with the same information, but it could also be used to provide feedback to individual students or to help with scoring an assignment.
Step 7: Evaluate and RefineAssessment, like teaching and learning, is an iterative process. As you review the results of your assessment, reflect on the goals and objectives you set during lesson planning [link to “Planning a lesson step by step” document]. The data you’ve gathered during your assessment can be used to improve your teaching methods and tools.

You might ask:
Did your assessment truly capture student performance? Did you discover any gaps between the performance measures on your rubric and your observations of student performance?

What differentiated the strongest student performances from the poorest? Were your performance measures too broad or too narrow? Do you need to refine or expand your rubric?  

Based on your assessment, how well did students meet your learning objectives? How many students performed well? How much content did the students learn?

Do you need to adjust your lesson goals to better reflect your learning objective(s)? How can you refine your lesson plan and activities to improve student learning next time you teach this content?

Further Reading

Oakleaf, Megan. “The Information Literacy Assessment Cycle: A Guide for Increasing Student Learning and Improving Librarian Instructional Skills.” Journal of Documentation 65:4 (July 24, 2009), pp. 539-60.

Stevens, Dannelle and Antonia Levi. Introduction to Rubrics, 2nd edition (Stylus, 2013).

Maggie Gallup Kopp and the RBMS Instruction and Outreach Committee, 2019

CC BY-NC 4.0

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