As a former K-12 classroom teacher, I have learned a variety of tools that proved to be essential in the classroom and have shown to be quite useful in the Student Affairs realm as well. One of those tools is the rubric.
What is a rubric? A rubric is a tool to help grade assignments. Rubrics are extremely useful when grading essays or projects. As the instructor, you decide what criteria are important to you and how much value you give each criterion. Then you define each criteria and give point values. An example of a rubric for the classroom might be:
Assignment – write a blog entry about something related to Student Affairs.
Categories/criteria: Topic, Level of Engagement with the reader, length, and grammar.
2 points for a topic that is directly connected to the practice of Student Affairs.
1 point for a topic that is somewhat related
0 points for a topic that is not related
Level of Engagement:
2 points for a blog that really reaches out and connects with the reader
1 point for a blog post that tells the reader something, but doesn’t connect directly with the reader
0 points for a blog post that is just plain boring
2 points for something between 500-1000 words
1 point for something between 250-500 or 1000-1100
0 points for something less than 250 or more than 1100
2 points for less than 10 grammatical errors
1 point for 10-15 errors
0 points for 15+ errors
So, as a reader/grader of the blog post, I would read the post and at the end go through the rubric and assign point values. You will notice with these four criteria that two of them are very concrete (Length & Grammar) — thus they are easier to grade and ‘better’ if you will. Meanwhile, the topic and level of engagement criteria are a bit more vague and open to interpretation. If I were to ‘grade’ my rubric (or if I was one of the instructors for a Master’s level course asking his students to create a rubric), I would give this rubric a C. It is ok – but, then, I’d have a rubric that I would grade my students on.
Finally, as the student, I can quite literally “see” what I did wrong – as teacher should pass out the rubric that they graded the paper on when they return the graded paper to the student. Truly great teachers will pass out the rubric when they pass out the assignment. So, as the student I know what will be important and what will not be important.
Switching out of the classroom — and back into Student Affairs. I recently saw a rubric being used to help ‘grade’ resumes for a Hall Director Search Committee. I think this is a PERFECT use of a rubric.
For the search rubric, there were two sheets of paper. The first was a chart with the criteria on the side of the paper and the names of the candidates on the top. This allowed for very easy comparison between candidates after the rubric was completed. The second sheet (the rubric itself) was a series of boxes that discussed how to dole out points across the various criteria for the position based on what the hiring committee and hiring director had determined was important on the initial resume scan.
Some of the criteria included basic things like ‘education.’ Full points for a Master’s in Higher Ed or College Student Development (or equivalent); partial points for a Masters in another field; zero points for no Masters. (this was clearly a Masters required position)
Another criterion was a bit more subjective — however, for this one the specific instructions on how to dole out points was much more expansive and helpful. Does this person have experience advising student groups? Full points if they were the sole advisor for a student group including (but not limited too) hall council, RHA, student government, club or student organization…etc for at least one full academic year; Partial points if the candidate co-advised or advised in a practicum setting (one semester/summer..etc); zero points of no advising experience. So, while I might read your resume and say, yes, you were an advisor or no you were not — the search committee wanted more than just yes or no.
What about a criteria called ‘does this person demonstrate a commitment to diversity’ or ‘how has this person given back to the field’ — these are very subjective. Again, a rubric would prove very useful.
In the data-driven educational system we now find ourselves, I think rubrics can be very useful tools. Aside from using a rubric for an initial scan of resumes, I think you could easily use a rubric for all components of the hiring process (student staff or pro staff – from the interview days to group process). Other uses for a rubric might be in your self-evaluation, development of your professional development plan, evaluating jobs during your own job search, or conducting an internal review. In fact, the more I think about it — the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) set of standards are actually just a rubric in a bit of a different format.
So, while this blog post has gone on a bit long, I do want to challenge you this summer to take a moment and think about some places where your department, office, or you yourself – could use a rubric during academic year 2011-2012. Take some time next week (go ahead and block it off on your calendar) to create a rubric for a process that you do each year. Take time with your team or staff or supervisor to develop an inclusive rubric that really challenges you to look deeper into an aspect of what you as an office do.
Teacher hat coming on again — there are some free web-based resources to help you format rubric’s and also some great examples of rubric’s out there too. Try Rubistar.
I’d also be happy to give a rubric a look if you are developing one and want an outsiders perspective.
Brian Gallagher is a graduate assistant in Residence Life at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.