Sharing Rubrics with Students Prior to Grading their WorkI have always been one to share my grading rubrics with students prior to the assignment being due. In my mind, the rubric helps to...

Sharing Rubrics with Students Prior to Grading their Work

I have always been one to share my grading rubrics with students prior to the assignment being due. In my mind, the rubric helps to articulate expectations and parameters for each assignments and allows students to focus their work where it matters most.

There seems to be a growing trend in my neck of the woods that teachers are withholding their scoring rubrics from students until they are returning the graded work. It is only then that students are seeing the assignment's criteria explained.

To be honest, I'm having a difficult time understanding the reasons and rationales for this practice. Thoughts anyone?

Asked on by copelmat

38 Answers

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Keep doing it your way.  I don't want to overdramatize, but I think that keeping the rubric from students is borderline morally wrong.  I think that students deserve to know exactly what they have to do in order to succeed.  You don't send a team out to play a game without telling them the object of the game and the rules, right?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I do not think an assessment is accurate unless the student knows what he or she is being assessed on. In my mind, my goal is to help my students to be successful.  This is why I create a rubric in the first place.  If I am careful in designing my rubric, careful in delivering my lessons, careful in reviewing the rubric with them and teaching them how to use it to assess their work, and careful in using the rubric to assign a grade, my students should do well.  My students usually do much better with a rubric, and the ones that don't are the ones who don't use it.  Since I WANT my students to do well, I will continue to give them the rubric.  If I didn’t, I guess I would withhold it.


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ajmchugh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I share rubrics ahead of time, too, but I think I can understand why some teachers don't. 

I recently had a discussion with some of my colleagues, and among other things, we discussed the growing problem of "teaching to the test."  Many students who enter our high school have been so conditioned to write a five-paragraph essay (because that's the easiest way to teach kids to pass the state test) that they're virtually unable to understand that there are other types of writing.  (Or, even, that every essay DOES NOT have to be five paragraphs!) 

Essentially, many of my colleagues concluded that the more specific teachers are with their requirements, the more kids come to expect--and rely on--such explicit directions. For example, many students who are given a writing assignment WITHOUT specific directions become panicked because they don't know how to organize their information.  The veteran teachers said they found that today's students are much less able to just take a writing assignment and make it work without specific directions. 

Again, I'm a fan of providing rubrics ahead of time--but I think I do understand some teachers' reluctance to do so.

kristenfusaro's profile pic

kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

The rubric is extremely important for students, and it is favorable for teachers as well. The rubric outlines the expectations, thus breaking that "What are we supposed to do?" mentality. Clear expectations express professionalism and organization to the student, and thus to the parents as well, also adding to the respect of the teacher.

If the mentality behind no rubric is "teach the student how to figure it out," that teacher is actually doing the student a great disservice. Colleges have used syllabi (which, more or less, are just scanty rubrics) for ages (and are moving to the more traditional rubric now), and even in business the boss explains the expectations. Think about it, if a student took a job at a leading fast food restaurant, the boss wouldn't throw them an apron and say "go"; how can we expect the student to produce or to learn without any guidance?

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

I agree with the above posts, and offer the same suggestion in a different light: students are expected to be familiar with the AP rubrics before taking the test. Can you imagine a student sitting down to complete 3 critical essays in 2 hours, without knowing how they will be scored? It seems to me that any teacher withholding rubrics from their students is setting his/her class up for failure...or at least for a much more difficult and frustrating task than it needs to be.

I train my students to score their own & each other's essays in class. I believe that the more comfortable they are in using the rubrics, the more likely they are to go into the test knowing what they need to score highly.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

For short assignments, I don't always share a rubric as the expectations are fairly forthright and understandable.  For a longer or more complicated work, I find it's actually in MY best interest, as well as theirs, to share the scoring rubric.

If the essay, research paper, or project has many "moving parts," everyone benefits from a kind of checklist to ensure it's all there.  From there it's easy to move to degree of completion or effectiveness.

Too, when the work is returned to the student, there can be little complaint or feedback about fairness or lack of understanding the expectations.  That, too, benefits us both. 

If you have it, give it and use it and enjoy it!


asorrell's profile pic

asorrell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I give them the rubric ahead of time, go over it in detail, and post it on my website.  Giving the students the rubric ahead of time makes grading it so much easier because the students know exactly what I want.  If a student is unhappy with his or her grade, all he or she has to do is look at the rubric to see what area they didn't do well on.  This said, rubrics need to be very detailed.  I hate vague rubrics.  My students know that I love using detailed rubrics.  Sometimes they come to me with one they've gotten from another teacher and ask me to decipher it.  Some of these rubrics are awful and they confuse the kids more than if they didn't have one at all. 

I also use a lot of sample writing to show students what is an A paper.  Every year, I ask students if I can save some of their papers to use next year as samples for the upcoming students.  It helps students a lot to see examples of quality work.

I did an Action Research Project for my first Masters degree on how writing scores on standardized tests can be improved if students just understand the rubric and see sample essays before taking the test.

sensei918's profile pic

sensei918 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I believe that students need to have clear understanding of what is expected of them in order to be able to be successful in their classes. A good rubric is essential because if the students know what the teacher wants and how she/he wants it done, they have the choice to either follow it and be rewarded with success, or blow it off and find out what will happen in the real world if they cannot follow directions.

Moreover, it is not fair for a teacher to not set forth specific requirements and then penalize the student for not knowing the score in advance.

ktmagalia's profile pic

ktmagalia | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

In theory, rubrics should be introduced as the assignment or activity is introduced. And as the years progress, I must say that I have become quite the rubric master (thanks to knowing what I'm finally doing as well as rubric making sights that simplify my rubric creating life.) However, in reality, many teachers with large class sizes and multiple preps find themselves, as Scarlet Pimpernel shares, pressed for time and thus put off the rubric until the end.  Not the best use of the rubric, but one can at least remember that the following year the rubric will be ready at the start.  Nothing about teaching should be kept secret, including, being honest with students with a sincere comment such as, "Hey, I'm trying something new with our study of _____, and the rubric will be following shortly.  In the meantime, I want you to remember that I will be basically looking for _____ and making the overall score ____."  Really. When we are honest and flexible, students are honest and flexible.

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livetoteach | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I agree that rubrics are essential to clarifying expectations for students, that they are incredibly helpful to the planning and writing of assignments or essays.  I've found they can be especially helpful for students who tend to get "blocked" at the initial stages - while brainstorming and beginning a written assignment.  However, in my experiences with college-level teaching, rubrics are mostly used in writing classes, though not in literature classes.  And I wonder why that is the case.  What is it about the assigning and grading of essays about literature makes "us" (teachers of English) reluctant to compose and distribute rubrics?  An old-fashioned attachment to the "sacredness" of writing or a perhaps unacknowledged lingering assumption that "good writing" simply flows freely from the writer's head?  In my view, rubrics help to break down these assumptions, demystifying - at least in part - the writing process.

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mzach | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

Most of the assignments we use rubrics for involve subjective elements.  Meaning, rubrics are not needed for a simple math homework assignment (students either get the right answer or they don't), but is needed when students write a paper or create a project where the "right" answer isn't so easily identified.

I agree with all of those who said that teachers who are not ready to give students a rubric at the time an assignment is given may be guilty of poor planning.  I also recognize that with all that we have on our plates, reality may mean we don't give kids rubrics "on time."

What I have found is that even in my "reality" moments, it is worth it to stay up an extra hour to create the rubric, or to take an hour from spending time with my husband to stay late at school to make it.  The reason is that I usually will save myself an hour or two (or three) in the longrun, so I am actually saving time by doing so.  I save instructional time (remediation) and I save time in my grading process.

As a two time graduate student, I was constantly reminded of the frustration of not having a rubric/clearly defined expectations.

When elements of an assignment are subjective in terms of grading, it just can't be an option to withold a rubric.

usbummer's profile pic

usbummer | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I understand all of these responses but I just can't shake an uneasy feeling that giving out rubrics in advance can effectively dry-up a student's creativity by being told, essentially, what to do and how to do it. It also seems to me that it helps development in the mind of the student an expectation of being directed in all things. This will not benefit the student in the long run.

I recently assigned a poster with a college/university theme (AVID). A student asked me for a rubric and I said there will be no rubric. I wanted them to use their imagination (not mine). I told them in general what I was looking for but left the specifics up to them.

I would be most interested in hearing any comments along these lines. My mind is deffinitely NOT made up.

herappleness's profile pic

M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Sharing rubrics is not an option. There is no way a student can set a goal, nor meet it, unless they know what is expected. I share mine with my third graders as well as with my Masters Levels students. They both appreciate it as much.

I remember back in the day when I was little and only the teacher knew what was on the rubric and I would only find out AFTER the grade was placed. As an ADHD student I would suffer a lot because a rubric could have helped me checklist myself and stay on track. Its a very sad situation not to share and still expect them to read one's mind as to what we want them to do .

ako6777's profile pic

ako6777 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I think sharing your rubric before the test is a great idea and should be done more often.  It allows the students to know what is expected of them and what to strive for.  It is allowed in colleges and universities why not allow it in high school. 

lfawley's profile pic

lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I definitely believe that students should be able to see the rubric in advance of turning in an assignment. That way, they know exactly what is being expected of them in the assignment. When you know what it is that you are being graded or judged on, it gives you a better ability to focus your work and your effort so that you can meet those expectations.

That said, the rubric does not need to give exact "points" per se - there is still a degree of subjective freedom on the part of the teacher, but the students will know at least WHAT is being scored and what the relative value if each area will be.

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