How to create a rubric for portfolio assessment

by | Apr 11, 2022 | Articles, Blog

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Assessment is a part of our daily lives, both in academic and non-academic settings. Students, painters, orators, presenters, video producers and all kinds of creatives boast portfolios they often share with teachers, potential employers, collaborators and assessors.

The portfolios represent their skills, performance and achievements over a period of time. Depending on the creative’s field, the portfolio can be a writing portfolio, a portfolio of videos, a portfolio of musical performances or a visual portfolio.

Portfolios can differ significantly in content and scope, and the challenge for assessors is in judging the quality without subjectivity. The criteria for portfolio assessment are not in black and white. Unlike multiple-choice tests where an A answer is an A answer, a portfolio could excel in one criterion but come up short in another.

How can you provide an effective assessment? 

A rubric is the surest way to evaluate a portfolio. A rubric is a scoring tool that evaluates a creative’s portfolio based on a predetermined set of guidelines. Rubrics list the grading criteria for the portfolios and eliminate the possibility of bias in the evaluation.

Let’s dive into how to create a rubric for portfolio assessment. But first, let’s discuss what a rubric is.   

What is a rubric?

A rubric is an effective scoring tool used to evaluate performance in an assignment, product, project or entire portfolio. As an evaluation tool or set of guidelines, a rubric lists the grading criteria for submissions and thus, promotes the consistent application of expectations, objectives or standards in a learning or performance setting. 

Since it defines in writing what is expected to achieve a particular grade and what will be assessed according to the specified criteria, a rubric makes grading and ranking simpler, more transparent and fairer.

A rubric is more than just how a submission will be marked. It’s also a natural tool for self-assessment because you can tell why you received a certain grade if you ace one aspect of a test and miss others.  

A rubric typically consists of three parts:  

  • The performance criteria which describe the key elements of a submission
  • The rating scale to identify the levels of performance
  • The indicators to provide examples or concrete descriptors for each level of performance.

Rubrics are often created and used by schools, universities and other academic settings. They also come in handy for organisations involved in assessment as part of a program or improvement model.

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Why are rubrics important?

As multiple studies have shown, rubrics help both the assessor and the submitter define the quality of a submission and reliably assess performance.

 Rubrics also help ensure consistency in the evaluation of work among submitters and their portfolios or assignments. 

Additionally, a scoring rubric can reduce the time spent grading portfolios and make it easier for assessors to provide evidence for their scoring and feedback on what submitters can to do improve. Rubrics indicate, at a glance, what the submitter should do to be successful and define overall expectations for the submissions.

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How to create a rubric for portfolio assessment

Now, let’s talk about how to actually create a scoring rubric for portfolio assessment. Here are six important steps to walk you through the process. 

1. Figure out the goal of the assessment

Determining the goal of your assessment can provide insight into how detailed the rubric should be as well as the type of rubric best suited for it. 

To get a clear picture of your assessment goals, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the assigned task?
  • How do I want to assess performance?
  • Do I want to give one final grade or multiple smaller grades based on several criteria?   
  • What should an excellent, acceptable or subpar performance look like?
  • What kind of feedback do I want to give on the submissions?

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2. Which type of rubric will work best?

Next on your to-do list is to decide the kind of rubric you’ll use. There are different kinds of rubrics and deciding which one you’ll use is dependent on what you plan to assess and how you hope to go about it.

Let’s examine some types of rubrics. 

a. The holistic rubric:

This type of rubric uses a rating scale where all criteria is assessed as a single score. The score could be a number or a description. 

Some words that can serve as descriptions are poor, satisfactory, good and excellent. If the assessor chooses to use a series of numbers (such as 1 to 5), then, expectations should be assigned to each of the scores.

When grading, the assessor matches the work in its entirety to a single description or number on the scale. The holistic rubric is much easier to create, lays emphasis on what the learner can demonstrate and is useful for grading multiple submissions.

However, there’s not always room for detailed feedback on the work. Also, it can sometimes be challenging to choose a particular score when a portfolio is at varying levels across the criteria.

b. The analytic rubric

The analytic rubric is the standard grid rubric typically used for portfolio assessment. It is the optimal rubric for providing clear, detailed feedback. It uses a rating scale to evaluate each criterion separately, forming a grid or table in which the rating scale is presented in the top row and each criterion is listed down the leftmost column.

Sample of art portfolio scoring rubric

Art portfolio rubric sample

It provides feedback on areas of strength or weakness and each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance. But on the flip side, it can be more challenging to create and can only be used consistently if well-defined. The Award Force portfolio assessment software can help in creating such a rubric with more ease.

c. The generic rubric

This type of rubric contains criteria that are general across tasks and can be used for similar tasks or performances. It shares a similarity with the analytical rubric as the criteria are assessed separately. 

The generic rubric can be a good option when portfolios range in content and scope.  

d. The task-specific rubric

This kind of rubric is best used when you want to assess a particular criterion in a portfolio. Since it assesses a specific task and unique criteria are assessed separately, it may be difficult to account for every criterion involved in a particular portfolio. 

However, the task-specific rubric ensures consistent scoring and works great in high-level accountability assessments.       

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3. Determine the criteria for portfolio assessment

When creating a rubric for portfolio assessment, you need to ascertain the benchmarks for scoring. 

To do this effectively, you need to answer a couple of questions.

  • What areas really matter to the quality of the portfolio? 
  • What form of proof do you need to see in the portfolio? 

List the criteria you want to see demonstrated in the portfolio. Then, decide the criteria that are compulsory. Consider a maximum of 7 criteria. Do away with anything that isn’t utterly necessary; too many criteria make the rubric onerous to use.

Consider the effectiveness of the criteria. Ask yourself:

  • Can they be measured?
  • Are they distinct from one another?
  • Are they crucial?   

The criteria you use should be related to the outcomes you plan to assess. For example, if you’re assessing a portfolio of paintings, you might rate for context, materials used, lines, shapes, contrast and colour coordination. Or, if you’re assessing a portfolio of speeches, you might assess based on content, organisation, delivery and language. 

Whatever the case, ensure that your criteria are explicit and understandable; don’t use ambiguous words.  

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4. Build a rating scale

After you’ve decided on the criteria, you’ll need to determine the sort of scores you’ll want to assign based on each level of mastery. 

A rating scale typically consists of a number of performance levels where descriptive labels can be numerical (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), alphabetical (A, B, C, D, E) or verbal (poor, basic, proficient, advanced). The rating scale should have three to five levels.

To properly develop the rating scale:

  • Identify the possible levels of achievement
  • Decide whether numerical, alphabetic or descriptive labels will be used
  • Determine what words will be most appropriate if you choose descriptive labels
  • Decide how you’ll list the levels, whether highest to lowest or vice-versa   

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5. Create indicators of quality

You’ll then need to define the performance quality of the ideal assessment for each criterion. Describe the different levels of performance to match each criterion. Spell out what determines an excellent performance as well as what determines a poor performance.

Create statements of expected performance at each level of the rubric. Your indicators should encourage all submitters to aspire to the highest level. These indicators help your applicants make sense of your expectations and the performance of their portfolios with regard to the expectations. 

The indicators should:

  • Describe measurable elements
  • Use the same pattern of words across the scale 
  • Indicate the degree to which the standards are met 

The indicators should be present at all performance levels. The levels should demonstrate a difference in quality and not a difference in the importance of the criteria.

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6. Test the rubric

No creative process is ever truly complete without the product being tried. Test your rubric to ascertain how well it functions and to determine whether or not it matches the objectives. Review the rubric with your colleagues. Run it by a trained eye and solicit feedback. Feedback helps you perfect your process.

A portfolio assessment software can really help in this stage, ensuring your process and rubric is ready to go.

To sum it up, assessors, whether teachers or other non-academic entities, need reliable tools to evaluate the portfolios of creatives. And usually, the portfolios of these students, painters, writers, musicians or orators are to be judged based on a variety of criteria. 

A good scoring rubric is key for an effective evaluation process and the steps we’ve outlined above can help you create one without stress.  

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