Assessment with Analytic Rubrics

Grading Using Analytic Rubrics

BIOL108 214

Hi! I’m back again. Last time, I discussed how a holistic rubric can be used to score high-value assignments and provide reliable assessment of program outcomes. Today I would like to look explore analytic rubrics. Unlike holistic rubrics, these tools allow us as instructors to break complex student tasks into discrete and measurable pieces. Students are given separate scores for each subtask often associated with a comment or other formative feedback. The total score is used as a measure of their total progress toward mastering the overall project. This is the daily-double of assessment; I would like us to go for the trifecta. The missing piece in most cases is an analytical summarization and report of the overall findings for the project. This is not as hard as it may at first seem.

Like many instructors, I use analytic rubrics to score many different types of assignments in my courses. The most complex of these is a group research poster project performed over the course of an entire semester in lab. This project clearly maps onto the Ferris State University “Scientific Understanding” student learning outcome. Additionally, it maps onto the program and course outcomes regarding scientific communication and use of the scientific method. Therefore, it represents an excellent opportunity to collect assessment data with broad relevance to what we do in our unit.

Large and complicated projects require detailed instructions and clear scoring guidelines. To this end, I have developed an analytic rubric with nine different measurable parameters. These are each individually described and score and are completed sequentially during the semester. The score criteria and specific instructions for each component are given to the students in the form of a lab handout. Here are some examples of these documents.

  • Scientific Method – This first document explains the overall concepts behind the scientific method and sets the stage for the class’ own experimental design experience.
  • Hypothesis – The first step in performing a scientific experiment is to define a testable hypothesis.
  • References – Each student is required to perform some literature review for the project. These references eventually get culled down to a final list of citations for their project.
  • Protocols – The class must create their own experimental procedures. They must also take sample selection and proper controls into account
  • Figures and Captions – Following data collection, the class must attempt to illustrate their findings with tables, graphs, drawings, and photographs as they see fit.
  • Summary – The main findings of the project must be summarized.
  • Introduction – Once everything is in place, an interesting and factually accurate introduction must be crafted.
  • Layout – The students must work as a group to insert their work into a poster template for printing and posting in the department.
  • Participation – Student participation in the poster project is graded by both the instructor and their peers.
  • Group score – Individuals earn 80 points for their contribution and up to 20 points as a group score

The interesting part of this exercise comes in scoring it. I have created an Excel scoring sheet for these rubrics. By simply typing a letter into the corresponding score fields, the students’ contributions can be quickly scored and an overall summary of the course performance is collected. Summary statistics for each criterion are calculated and the class performance for each criterion is plotted in a series of column graphs. These data are suitable for saving as a PDF and submission into TracDat. With very little extra effort, I have achieved the trifecta of assessment! The students receive lots of formative feedback over the span of a semester. I collect summative scores for each student that are entered into the grade book. More importantly, I collect useful data that maps onto course-, program-, and university-level student learning outcomes. All that and I have not even touched our Course Management System (Blackboard). Next time I will show you how to make Blackboard work for you instead of against you in your assessment efforts.


About WeeBeasties

I am a professor of Microbiology at Ferris State University and also serve as the General Education Assessment Coordinator for the University. In my limited free time, I enjoy logic puzzles, chess, computer programming, and reading. When outside, I like to take my dog for walks, fishing, and shooting sporting clays.
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