How To Develop Student Learning Rubrics For Student Affairs Practice

Rubrics are tools that are used by educators to help evaluate the learning and performance of students. They are written documents, often presented in a chart format, that help define progress and achievement levels towards various goals and performance indicators.

When developing learning goals and their constituent outcomes in a residential curriculum, rubrics can help. Rubrics ensure that one is appropriately sequencing one’s learning opportunities. Rubrics also serve as an important assessment tool. Being familiar with “where students are” and “where you want to move students to” also allows one to structure learning strategies appropriately.

Before providing an example of a rubric that can be utilized in a student affairs or residence life setting, it is first important to understand what rubrics try to evaluate and the basic types of rubrics that exist. The first type, outlined in the chart below, makes a distinction between rubrics that are attempting to evaluate a process and those that evaluate a product.

Because co-curricular learning occurs outside of the classroom environment, it is likely that student affairs educators will be most often evaluating processes. Processes involve the evaluation of behavior and abilities. This is, in part, what makes this type of assessment more difficult than those that are designed to evaluate products. Behavioral statistics, such as student conduct cases and student utilization of resource centers on campus, can be used loosely for this purpose but with less detail than might be achieved through direct conversation or observation.

Rubrics for products evaluate tangible end results. Examples of products in student affairs work include student reflection papers (perhaps as a part of a student conduct sanction), roommate agreements (through a review of the document students develop), and knowledge tests for online training. These can be accomplished without the student needing to be physically present.

 

Beyond knowing the type of performance you are trying to evaluate, there are choices one must make in regards to the type of rubric that makes most sense for what one is attempting to evaluate and what one desires to know as a result of the evaluation. The chart below provides distinctions between two sets of rubric types. Holistic versus analytic and general versus task-specific.

In a residential curriculum, developed rubrics are most likely to be holistic and general. Although, for specific strategies, you may use a more task-specific analytic approach. An example of the former is developing a rubric for your learning goals that focuses on learning over the course of a student’s time in residence. An example of the latter may be a rubric developed for the evaluation of a roommate agreement.

 

One of the most common uses of a rubric in residential curriculum development relates to one’s defined learning goals and related outcomes. Developing a rubric for a curriculum’s overall goals can help with sequencing and planning multiple successive educational interventions that help move students towards your educational priority.

The example below, developed from a learning goal focused on academic excellence, describes learning development as it relates to academic and career planning skills, and study, time management, and academic skills. Although listed here as “No,” “Low,” “Moderate,” and “High” development, some schools may choose to adopt language of Nancy Schlossberg, such as “Moving In,” “Moving Through,” and “Moving On.”

Whatever labels are used, one should be mindful of aligning the highest level of achievement with the achievement of one’s educational priority. It should be a reasonable end goal that students are able to achieve during their time in the residence halls. At the other end of the spectrum, the rubric should start at a likely entry point for one’s students. Some students may enter the residence halls already at a low or medium level of achievement and some may be starting from the beginning.

 

Rubrics can be a powerful planning and assessment tool when developing a residential curriculum. In designing rubrics, the process of thinking through the stages of the learning process can be equally as important as the end product itself. Well developed rubrics can act as planning guides as well as assessment tools. Through the use of rubrics, you can better justify and prove that student learning is occurring.

Key Questions

  • What performances are you applying your rubrics to? Products or Processes?
  • What types of rubrics make most sense for your work? Holistic versus Analytic? General versus Task-Specific?
  • How can you stage and sequence your learning goal outcomes in a measured way that allows you to plan and evaluate progress?

Rubric types adapted from “How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading.”

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