Formative Assessment Rubrics: An Introduction
The Rutgers Physics and Astronomy Education (PAER) group has developed rubrics for assessment of scientific abilities. The rubrics contain descriptors for individual scientific sub-abilities. One can use the descriptors to assign either a numerical score or a descriptive score for a portion of student writing related to a certain sub-ability. The relationship between the scores is shown in the table below. We prefer to give students rubric description with a descriptive score as numerical scores were found to have a negative effect on student learning. A score of 0 describes a write-up in which the sub-ability is ‘Missing’, 1 stands for a write-up where the sub-ability is ‘Not adequate’, 2 describes a write-up with the sub-ability that ‘Needs some improvement’ and 3 describes a write-up in which is ‘Adequate’.
The rubrics are used by students, teachers, designers of the lab and researchers for different purposes as described below.
Students: Scientific ability rubrics provide students guidelines for their work. For example, when students design an experiment in a lab, the rubrics help them focus on important elements of an experiment such as drawing a picture, describing the mathematical procedure, describing assumptions made in the procedure and evaluating effects, and recording experimental uncertainties, their effects and ways to minimize them. Students also use the rubrics to self-assess their work after performing an experiment and improve it if necessary.
Teachers: Teachers and Teaching Assistants use the rubrics to provide formative assessment when students are working on a task in a lab or recitation. TAs also use the same rubrics to evaluate students’ reports and to grade lab practical exams and other free-response exam questions.
Lab designers: Descriptors for individual scientific abilities serve as goals for lab designers to develop a lab write-up for students. For example, each design experiment (see section ‘Formative Assessment Tasks/Design Experiments) has many parts, each of which corresponds to one or more sub-abilities in a rubric.
Researchers: Rubrics are used to score students’ lab reports and exam questions over a long time to determine how students’ scientific abilities change.
The section Formative Assessment Tasks contains examples of different tasks, samples of student work and rubrics scores.