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Magic on a Page: Single-Point Rubrics

Getting Started

Have you ever heard a phrase that went in one ear and immediately out the other? That’s what happened to me the first time my colleagues discussed something called a “single-point rubric.”

I didn’t get it. Instead, I continued using my “normal” analytic rubrics until it became clear that our team was undergoing a unified shift in our assessment practices. Great decision.

At this point, you (dear reader) may find yourself with a burning question: What are single-point rubrics and why are they so cool?

In a nutshell, a single-point rubric is an assessment tool that allows students to see where they meet, exceed, or fall short of the criteria of mastery. Single-point rubrics proved incredibly versatile and saved me a boatload of time, all while allowing a more effective avenue for students to receive feedback.

What Does It Look Like?

One major strength of a single-point rubric is its malleability. For Competency-Based learning, in particular, there is no more flexible tool for giving a student a “snapshot” into their progress towards mastery of a particular skill. Take a look at this example:

This example showcases a competency framework for a social studies class under the umbrella of a broad focal point (blue box), a more refined power standard (gray box), and a nuanced learning outcome (white boxes). Notice how the rubric is designed for feedback about a particular skill, written in the language of a learning outcome, or “I can” statement.The blank white boxes under the headings “Concerns” and “Kudos” are where a teacher (or student, in the case of a powerful self-assessment) evaluates their level of mastery of the learning outcomes. In this case, there are two learning outcomes listed, so there are four corresponding boxes for feedback regarding a student’s journey towards mastery.

How Does It Work?

For example, take a look at the first learning outcome: “I can support a claim with evidence that is relevant and specific.” Let’s say, for instance, that a student (we’ll call him Chris) has written a brief essay about the transformation of American foreign policy. Chris has argued that America shifted from an isolationist nation to an imperialist one in the early twentieth century. He claims that the United States made this shift in order to keep up economically with its European rivals. For evidence, he cites a chart that compares the American economy with the economies of imperialist European nations before and after 1900. He reasons that because the American economy grew exponentially after it became an imperial power, the hope of realizing this growth motivated the nation’s shift in foreign policy.

How would we use a single-point rubric to provide feedback? Where is Chris in terms of mastering this skill for learning outcome #1? He’s certainly on the right track, but has room for improvement.

In the blank white box under the “Kudos” heading, I might point out that Christ made an arguable claim that he supported with relevant evidence. I would note that his selection of evidence served the purpose of his essay and provided some helpful context.

In the box under the “Concerns” heading I would ask Chris why this piece of evidence might not be sufficiently specific. I could choose to tell him that a mere correlation of economic output and territorial expansion could not specifically prove an economic motivation. But, more likely, I would use the rubric as an opportunity to discuss the essay with Chris one-on-one and encourage him to fill in those gaps while according to the rubric.

When Can I Use A Single-Point Rubric?

At this point, you may already be envisioning your own learning outcomes in those white boxes, rather than ours. Good! That’s the beauty of a flexible and versatile rubric. The single-point method will work for any class, regardless of subject matter. Furthermore, it pairs nicely with virtually any assessment.

Are your students giving a presentation? Are they writing a letter to the editor or a research paper? Are they solving equations using the quadratic formula? Are they working on a group project to explain the function of various components of a plant cell? A single-point rubric is a great tool for giving feedback on ALL of these assessments. If you have learning outcomes, you can use a single-point rubric to great effect!

The Challenge

You don’t have to change all of your rubrics at once in order to start experimenting with the single-point approach. In fact, we encourage you to start small! Choose a learning outcome you will assess in the near future and build a rubric around it. Let students see your single-point rubric before the assessment. Then provide targeted feedback based on a student’s level of mastery. How did it go? Tweak and try again. You may just get hooked on this method.

Looking for a great single-point rubric template? Download one of ours here!

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