Rubrics: Usage in Health Sciences, Law, and Undergraduate Education

July 8, 2014 Kristen Hicks

We’ve got a lot of information covering the basics of what rubrics are and what they do (this post is a great refresher). Different educators face distinct sets of grading challenges based on their subject focuses and teaching styles. Therefore, communicating what rubrics do versus what rubrics can do for you personally are two different challenges.

We’ll explore here three different ways rubrics can be helpful to three different types of faculty. Since there are many, many academics that don’t fall into these categories, we urge anyone still curious to schedule a personalized rubrics tour.

For Law School Faculty

Essays are a huge part of law school. Most tests and assignments involve writing, which makes grading into a slow, tedious task for law school faculty and their TAs. For most law faculty today, the grading process is unorganized, subjective, and often rushed.

The good news is that most law professors already have guidelines for what to assess in the assignments they give. Keeping those guidelines at the forefront of their minds throughout the grading process can be a challenge for them, though.

By putting those guidelines into rubric form, you can simplify the grading process while simultaneously making it more objective. If the people involved in grading had the objective criteria laid out for the assignment in rubric form right in front of them, student work would be assessed in a more consistent manner.

A more organized process that puts those assessment guidelines at the forefront of law professors’ minds will make the job of grading easier and produce fairer results for students.

For Faculty in the Health Care Sciences

Health care students often face an entirely different sort of assignment. To gauge how well prepared a student is to successfully deal with sick or injured patients, students perform the duties common to health care professionals in a simulated setting.

Instead of grading an assignment submitted on a piece of paper or a computer screen, health care faculty are faced with judging the interaction that takes place between a student and an actor playing the role of a patient.

Even without the ability to view the grading criteria side by side with a student’s assignment, rubrics can help simplify the process. A health sciences rubric makes it easier to clarify and organize all the things faculty want to make sure a student achieves during an interaction. For example, did he or she ask the right questions and have an appropriate bedside manner?

A professor can create all the relevant categories for assessing an assignment, and then provide descriptions for achievement levels to help determine how successfully a student has managed each one. The rubric makes the scoring process easier for each individual faculty member grading a student’s performance, and in the cases where multiple graders come into play, it more easily produces a final score and a unified feedback report for a student to learn from.

For Undergrad Faculty

Undergraduate courses include a wide variety of assignments. For written undergraduate assignments, rubrics can be used in much the same way they are in law school. Student presentations can be graded via a similar process to what’s described above in the health care scenario, but they can also be applied to the many other assignment types and formats used in undergraduate classes.

The professor in a music composition course can have students submit audio files through the rubrics platform and use organized guidelines created for an assignment in advance for grading it. The same goes for assignments in spreadsheet form in accounting classes, PowerPoint submissions, or any other file format appropriate to a particular assignment.

While the data collection feature of rubrics is potentially valuable to any type of school or program, it’s an especially valuable feature for many undergraduate institutions wanting to track specific outcomes. Being able to get a quick and regular read on the areas individual students are struggling in can enable schools to better help their students successfully reach graduation.

The data that rubrics allow schools and faculty to collect results in more valuable feedback for students, improved curriculums, and more opportunities for problem solving.

Rubrics don’t just solve one problem; they’re a flexible solution that can be easily applied to a number of scenarios in higher education. Every school, faculty member, and program faces distinct challenges. Fortunately, rubrics can help successfully address a number of them.


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