Return of the Rubrics

One of the hottest educational ideas of the late 1990s was rubrics.  As information and communication technologies (ICT) began to proliferate into many aspects of many societies and constructivist learning started to fuel the imaginations of educators, we needed a way to quantitatively assess the information products that students were assembling in their learning explorations.  Rubrics helped us to solve this problem by enabling teachers to precisely describe the instructional objectives of their student projects and to define levels of performance or accomplishment in each of those objectives — and then to determine  a score each level of performance.

Of course, when accountability knocked on our door steps in its black leather trench coats, barged in to our classrooms, and demanded to see our papers (well, enough of that imagery), rubrics fell by the wayside — replaced by testing, test practicing, test prep, blah blah blah.

The education landscape appears to be shifting again, in no small part to a growing realization that the information landscape is not merely shifting, but transforming.  I suspect that rubrics will once again become a useful tool for assessing student-written blogs, student managed wikis, digital stories, multimedia presentations, and even as a tool for self- and peer-assessment.

To this end, I have spent the last many days getting digital grease under my fingernails as I’ve been tinkering and moding up the motor of a web tool I built many years ago, The Rubric Builder

It’s all new and it’s Web 2.

Rubric Builder is a tool kit that enables members to construct their own rubrics using an improved interface.  Once the rubric is completed:

  • Its author can generate a URL that will link to a web display of the rubric. 
  • The tool will also generate HTML code that can be pasted into a WebQuest or blog, to make the rubric a part of that web page. 
  • Rubric Builder also provides a rubric calculator, enabling the teacher (or student) to click the levels of performance for each objective and calculate a weighted score.

All rubrics are public and are available under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, share-alike license.  Members can search the database of nearly 50,000 current rubrics, select one that appears to be a good starting place for the rubric they need, and then clone that rubric and edit it for their immediate needs.  It is a sharing community environment.

It’s not completely finished.  I’m still tweaking the carburetor.  Ok, I know, they don’t use carburetors any more.  But the system is ready for folks to come in, join, or just search for existing rubrics by keyword, or, if you used the original Rubric Builder, you can enter your access code and call up many of those rubrics you built years ago.  You are also welcome to join by signing up.  This will enable  you to build your own rubrics and clone the rubrics of others.

Future Plans:
I want to continue developing this and to make Rubric Builder an integral part of Class Blogmeister.  With RB latched in, teachers would be able to write blogged assignments for their students, and automatically make the rubric a part of the assignment.  Students would also be able to attach teacher-made rubrics to their writings and call on other students to assess their work.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.