Rubrics: The Key To Fairness In Performance Based Assessments

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Carol M. Shepherd
Ann Mary Mullane


rubrics, performance based assessment


Life involves a myriad of skills. Most of the basic skills are undeniably ‘classics’ such as communication and problem solving. The interpretation and delivery of these skills has morphed into a complicated science, with the changing social environment and the growing prevalence of technology in our everyday existences.  Commonplace technology, as evidenced through word processing, spreadsheets and presentation programs support Gardner’s 1980’s proposition of multiple intelligences. Furthermore, the inclusion in many K-12 curricula of courses such as web design and the acceptance of PowerPoint as a presentation enhancement, forces the classroom teacher not only to accept Gardner’s concepts but also creates a worrisome quandary of authentic assessment development, implementation and evaluation.  Institutions of higher education must prepare their teacher candidates to effectively deal with this new form of assessment. Teachers are confronted with the theme of man versus machine anew.  Refined methods of evaluation are needed to assess not only the learning of the student in the traditional sense but also the manipulation of technology as a presentation vehicle.  Much of the existing technology has developed so quickly that certain ‘project enhancers’ while pleasant and fun, are not evidence of a deeper understanding of the subject matter but simply a distraction. Performance based assessments, while enabling students to express their mastery of content according to their learning styles and skill strengths, are difficult to score objectively and fairly.  A rubric is a common scoring guide frequently used in the attempt to fairly assess creative work.  It is necessary to have a taxonomy of the levels of talent, or creativity, in the grading process.  Unfortunately, teachers are more willing than they are able to accurately and dispassionately assess the projects that they want their students to explore, such as posters, skits or plays, PowerPoint presentations, websites and videos. This study will address the necessity to balance students’ creative efforts with the reality of deadlines, the conventions of their chosen medium and the ability to self-assess their own efforts without the benefit of traditional proofreading.  The proposed methodology will be a search of the literature in addition to action research.  The expected outcomes will be a sharing of rubrics and guidelines to assist educators in fairly and objectively coping with authentic assessment development, implementation and evaluation.  This information will be valuable in training teacher candidates to effectively and fairly deal with performance based assessments.


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