Designing Rubrics for Classroom Assessment

Timothy L Farnsworth

All teachers need training to accurately and practically assess their students’ abilities, progress, and areas in need of improvement. Because of the multiple demands on teachers’ time, assessments need to be easy to use, consistent, and easy for both teacher and students to understand. Thus, quizzes and classroom assessments often rely on short-answer, multiple choice, and similar testing activities. However, communicative language teaching prioritizes actual communicative performances, thus calling into question the validity and accuracy of multiple choice or other traditional means of assessing. Performance assessment, or assessing students’ actual language use in a communicative situation, is the answer to this problem. Students can be assessed while speaking in pairs, giving presentations, doing group communicative activities, or almost any communicative classroom activity. The challenge in these cases is to design a fair yet simple and clear scoring rubric and test instructions. A simple, clear, and fair rubric contributes to consistent assessment and increased student understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. In this presentation, several principles of high quality performance assessment rubrics will be outlined, and several examples will be shown to illustrate these principles. Holistic, analytic, decision tree, and checklist rubrics will be compared and discussed.  The main focus will be on rubrics for oral assessment, but the principles will apply to written assessment as well. Participants will have a chance to do hands-on work on designing a rubric for their own classroom assessment using these principles. A checklist for analyzing and designing new rubrics will be provided.