Tailored feedback with a “rubric of one”

English teachers who know me, will confirm that I have always been a huge fan of rubrics when it comes to marking and giving feedback on communicative or creative tasks, especially when written or oral language production and interaction is involved. Up to a few months ago, I always used analytic rubrics, but I recently discovered the “rubric of one”.

A traditional analytic rubric

I am quite sure that most of you are familiar with analytic rubrics, those grids with a limited number of parameters – in my opinion, maximum five. These criteria articulate what the teacher expects from the student and are linked to the learning goals. Each one comes with its own marking scale and corresponding clear descriptors, stating to which extent each criterion is (not) met. For an oral presentation for instance, your parameters could focus on posture and eye-contact, fluency, range of vocabulary, etcetera.

If you provide such a rubric for your students, you kill three birds with one stone. They know quite clearly beforehand what they should pay attention to and what the objectives of the task are, you can easily evaluate by circling the appropriate descriptors for each student and the feedback is instantly given. I mostly create these analytic rubrics online with the tool on the Rubistar website. For a number of tasks, the tool provides a wide choice of criteria, both language-focused and performance-focused, and the descriptors are ready-made for you, but still adaptable.

A “rubric of one” (credits: S. Vandenberghe)

Just like the analytic rubrics, the “rubric of one” (also called “single-point rubric”) uses a number of parameters in order to assess the task. However, there is only one descriptor for each category: the proper expectation. The criteria are listed in one column, in the middle of the sheet. Next to this column, there are two more, one on the left and one on the right. One column provides space where the teacher can write down how the task meets or even exceeds the expectations; in the other one the teacher can note down how the student can still improve. In this way, with this kind of rubric, the teacher can give more personalized feedback. As a teacher, you can tell the students individually what is going right, while at the same time specifying some problem areas they need to work on. This will definitely make the feedback more effective.

The “rubric of one” also meets a criticism I often hear from teachers when talking about analytic rubrics. Their final mark is sometimes not in line with their professional “gut feeling” about the task performance; the student should get more or less marks, but the cells are circled. Moreover, the “rubric of one” is easier for the students to read and understand. Instead of having to read a grid with some 20 different cells (5 criteria and four scales), they only have to focus on  four or five expectations. This makes it more likely they actually read them before preparing the task.