Teachers, make this your year to make better use of rubrics and a rubric scale for your assignments and your courses. If you do so, according to Edudemic blogger Katie Lepi, you will show improvement in instruction, assessment, performance, expectations, directions, assignment quality, self-evaluation, grading quality and feedback. She noted this in her recent article "18 Ways to Use Rubrics in Education."

Veteran English teacher and educational blogger and speaker Tom Whitby talks about his adoption of rubrics in his recent blog article "My Limited Understanding of Rubrics." He recounts his early career as an English teacher in the 1970s and how he could never quite get over the subjectivity of grading until he was introduced to rubrics.

"I found the process in developing these Rubrics eye-opening," Whitby wrote. "For the first time, I had a clear understanding of what it was I was looking for with specific guidelines and values. It was no longer a gut thing."

A rubric is a chart that lists the criteria and a variety of levels that describe proficiency for a particular assignment or task. With a rubric, a teacher determines a grade by first looking at the student work and determining which level of the rubric is the most appropriate match for that work. Students are provided rubrics when an assignment or task is given so that they have a clear expectation of what they need to do in order to complete the assignment or task at an acceptable level.

When used correctly, rubrics can greatly improve the accuracy and consistency of a student's grade because they establish clear expectations for students on what they need to do to demonstrate mastery on an assignment or throughout a course. Using rubrics correctly, however, requires regular calibration and collaboration between teachers to produce inter-rater reliability.

In a recent Teaching Channel article, English teacher Renee Boss writes about "Evaluating Lessons: Tips for Calibrating Group Feedback." She argues that if you were to place 50 teachers in a room with a single assignment and rubric then you would likely receive numerous different scores and a wide variety of interpretations of the rubric’s criteria.

Through calibration protocols, like this one from the Center for Collaborative Education, rubrics become a powerful tool to inform instruction and improve student learning.

In recent months, new technology tools have been developed to make it easier for teachers to use rubrics with students. With Google Drive, the tool ChalkUp allows teachers to easily use rubrics to grade assignments and then share them with students on Google Drive. Read the whole review of this tool from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning. A similar feature is available on the popular Turnitin software, and the company maintains a website with rubric resources and examples for download.

Life of an Educator blogger Dr. Justin Tarte recently identified "5 things to consider when designing a rubric." For Tarte, an improperly implemented and executed rubric could be more damaging than not using a rubric at all.

Tarte urges teachers to involve students in rubric development so that they know what is expected of them. He encourages teachers to help students use rubrics for self-evaluation and self-assessment. Finally, he reminds teachers to ensure students are graded fairly and consistently.

Some schools, particularly ones that have adopted schoolwide competency-based reporting systems, believe so strongly in the power of rubrics that they have abandoned the traditional 100-point scale all together in favor of a four-point rubric scale for reporting overall course grades. How will you start to harness the power of the rubric in your classroom or school this year?