UW Continuum College Instructor Resources

Episode 7: Rubrics transcript

J: Hi Peter!

P: Hey, Jan! What’s the topic for today?

J: Well, today I thought it would be good to talk about rubrics.

P: Oh, like a cube?

J: Not quite. The cube is meant to be a challenge, and rubrics are designed to make your life easier—at least when it comes to grading. And they work in both classrooms and online.

P: Wow! Tell me more.

J: A rubric is a diagram that helps you with grading. It shows what aspects of an assessment you consider important to the grade, and explains your standards for grading.

P: How does that work?

J: Imagine you wanted to have a party.

P: Okay!

J: And for some reason, you wanted to be able to grade yourself on how successful your party was.

P: OK. I mean we do work in education, after all.

J: So, what aspects of the party would you grade yourself on?

P: Well, I guess, how good was the food, did I invite enough people and not too many, how was the music.

J: Anything else?

P: No, that’s enough for right now.

J: OK! So we put those three items in the first column of a table, OK? Our listeners are going to have to visualize this for now, but when we finish the rubric, we’ll post it on this same podcast page. And now, we want to think about how we know if our party was a huge success.

P: Let’s see…OK, food first. There was enough food for everybody, and almost all of it got eaten.

J: Right!

P: Did I invite the right number of people? Well, they weren’t too crowded in the space, but there were enough that the energy was lively.

J: Yes! I’ve been at parties where I got in the door and couldn’t move, there were so many people.

P: And, uh, the music.

J: Were people dancing?

P: Yup. And the music wasn’t so loud that people had to shout.

J: OK, So in the second column of the rubric, you’d put those three standards for a successful party. What would a really bad party look like?

P: Got it. Uh, the food was terrible. Or we ran out early. Or both.

J: Heh.

P: And, as you said, it was so crowded you spent the whole time staring at someone’s back. Or there were only three people there and you ran out of things to talk about.

J: Right! And the music?

P: Well, nobody knew how to dance to the music I chose. And it was so loud we couldn’t talk.

J: OK! So put those standards in the third column. Now you have a rubric with only two levels—a really successful party, and a really terrible one. Kind of a pass/fail party rubric.

P: Well, that was fun. But what’s a rubric good for, really?

J: Well, imagine you were teaching a class on how to throw a good party. And you had fifty students. So you’d get a grader to help you. The rubric makes sure that you and the grader are looking for the same qualities in all the parties you assessed. It also guarantees that you’re applying the same standards to party number 49 as you did to party number 1—that you can remember why you gave part number 1 a pass, and you gave party number 12 a fail. It keeps your grading consistent.

P: So if one of your students complains about the failing grade they got, you could show them the rubric?

J: Exactly. And you show your students the rubric before they even start planning their parties, so they know what the standards are for a good party.

P: So, a rubric is kind of a blueprint for a successful assignment, then?

J: Right.

P: It sounds like a lot of work to make a rubric, though.

J: It is, yes. I admit it. It’s a lot of work up front, but once you’ve created it you can use it every time you teach the course, and in the long run it will save you a lot of time and effort. And your instructional designer is happy to help your create an effective rubric.

P: That seems worth the effort.

J: Thanks!

P: And now, if our listeners have questions or ideas for other podcasts, please let us know in the form at the bottom of the page. Bye for now!