Writing rubrics is no easy task, and it’s especially difficult if you want to write a broad, general rubric used for program assessment. Writing rubrics for assignments is much easier because the instructor can easily list all of the things that it will take to create an A-level project. But, it’s much harder to step back and think about the general things that a student must do in order to show competency in a certain area across a program’s curriculum. For an assignment, it may be necessary to reference four publications, but is that always an appropriate requirement for the curriculum as a whole? Probably not.
When writing a program rubric I suggest the following:
- Think broadly.
- Use other program rubrics as a guide.
- Don’t write alone.
Your rubrics should be tied to your broad program learning outcomes. List the skills that are necessary to competently obtain an outcome. For instance, if one of your outcomes addresses oral communication, think about the things that students must do in order to be good speakers all of the time (not just for one speech in one class). Possible categories for evaluation might include: topic selection, pace and timing, organization, mechanics of delivery, and language. For program assessment I would recommend not focusing on things such as length of the presentation or number of references. It may be valuable to note these things for a specific assignment, but at the program level it would be difficult to determine which length is the right length for a speech and exactly how many references are necessary.
Use Other Program Rubrics as a Guide
The wheel doesn’t need reinventing and neither does a program rubric. As stated earlier program rubrics are notoriously difficult to write; so why bother? It’s far easier to borrow rubrics that have already been successfully implemented at other universities and tweak them to suit your own program’s needs. A valuable resource is the AAC&U VALUE rubrics. Fifteen rubrics were created by faculty and academic administrators and staff to reflect various general learning expectations. These rubrics were tested at 100 universities and colleges across the United States and are now being used, in some form, at hundreds more.
The VALUE rubrics are not your only resource, though. A simple internet search will, likely, provide you with many more rubrics for your outcome. You’ll probably find that there are more resources for K-12 education than higher education. This is only logical; K-12 has been using rubrics for assessment of student performance for many years. This is still a fairly new way to assess in higher education. But, new resources are being added daily, so don’t hesitate to continue your search. You’ll probably encounter new resources every time you look.
Don’t Write Alone
No, you won’t fall into some dark, rubric abyss if you write alone, but you’ll probably not get a great rubric, either. It’s nice to hash out the intricacies of an outcome with others in your field. The nuance of one word over another can make a big difference in a rubric. Your peers can help think through these things. Luckily we live in a time where it is easy to collaborate via the internet, so there’s no need to be in the same room.