The Single Point Rubric

Recently, I read “Know Your Terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics” by Jennifer Gonzalez, of Cult of Pedagogy. It introduced me to the Single-Point Rubric and this tool has transformed my teaching. I made some hacks to this rubric to better meet my needs and, ultimately, allow me to provide more thorough and meaningful feedback to my students.

I’ve had issues with the traditional four-point rubric because, despite their attempt to be objective, they end up limiting a teacher’s ability to provide students with personalized feedback. The Single-Point Rubric simply identifies the objectives of an assignment but allows the teacher to assess a limitless spectrum of possible responses student can offer.

In Maja Wilson’s Rethinking Rubrics she points out that holistic and analytic rubrics drive a teacher to think only about the rubric while using it to assess student work. The problem with this is teachers often fail to inform students about work that transcends the rubric. The student’s work is viewed in relation to the criteria of the rubric rather than reveal the potential within the student.

Traditional rubrics define what is standard, what is below standard, and what exceeds the standard. When proficiency is tiered, it complicates the definition of proficiency by allowing below standard areas to be acceptable because it can be averaged out by the criterion that exceeds the standard. This sends the message to students that below standard work is acceptable. It is inconsistent of teachers to say something is important, but not that important if it can be balanced out by excelling in other areas.

Let’s take a presentation, for example. In my class students are assessed on their voice, poise, research, and visual aide. Using a traditional rubric makes it possible for a student to pass a presentation when it is very apparent he has not done any research. If he is able to earn 4’s on his voice and his delivery, earn a 3 on his visual aide, then he can have a 1 on research and still pass the presentation with an average of 3 on the rubric. To me, this is unacceptable. My hack of the Single-Point Rubric makes all criteria equally valid and, if students are not meeting the standard, revision is expected until proficiency is met.

The other problem I’ve encountered with the traditional rubric is that they limit assessment as it attempts to define all areas and levels of proficiency. However, all too often I have seen students exhibit work that goes beyond the criteria defined in my rubric. Maybe the work inspired me. Maybe the work was very creative. Maybe the work brought about a curiosity or aroused emotions within me. If this was not defined in the rubric then it is often ignored.

Another thing that has bothered me about traditional rubrics is they ignore the needs of the student. Traditional rubrics attempt to define all aspects of what is important within the work. My hack of the Single-Point Rubric allows for the teacher to provide feedback on areas that the student feels are important to them. With the added box a student can request individual feedback on her work. This is actually my favorite feature of my rubric. I have had students ask me to look at their transitions, their word choice, the organization of the essay, or its flow. One of my favorite requests was, “Is this essay interesting?” This student was sincere and I was able to offer her the feedback she wanted that empowered her to make the work interesting.

Finally, my hack of the Single-Point Rubric allows teachers to offer every student suggestion to promote future growth. With the added “Teacher Suggestions for Growth,” all students are offered ideas that will help them become more proficient. The traditional rubric ignores the fact that all students have areas in which they can improve. When a student earns all 4’s the teacher is often at a loss to make recommendations that promote growth. By leaving the rubric open-ended it makes it possible for the teacher to promote growth for all students, and this is the obligation every teacher owes his students.

The Single-Point Rubric has provided me the ability to offer meaningful and individualized feedback that promotes growth and places value on the standards. Prior to using this, I have been frustrated with the limits of the traditional rubric. Since I’ve been using the Single-Point Rubric, I feel I have found the balance between growth and proficiency by challenging all my students to meet and exceed standards despite each student’s ability.

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10 thoughts on “The Single Point Rubric

  1. If any one descriptors of a 4 point rubric is not meeting the criteria, it would mean ‘revision’ in that aspect. Period.
    I find 4 pt rubrics very meaningful as it does not let anything missed…it not only depends how it is used.

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  2. This is great! I was not familiar with Single-Point rubrics before so I appreciate the idea. I teach ESL to university students, and we do a lot of presentations. I totally agree that traditional rubrics allow students to pass even if they are lacking in a certain area. I think allowing students to pinpoint their own targets helps empower them, and it helps focus my attention as I assess. This seems like a very powerful tool to spur growth.

    I’m curious, how do you translate this into a grade? My school, unfortunately, will allow not me to give pass/fail grades.

    Thanks again for sharing. I hope to use this concept in my class soon! Cheers!

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    1. Pass/fail is what I would prefer. The concept of grades is so demeaning and counter intuitive to learning.

      I don’t get grades on assignments. Students either meet standard or they are revising. At the end of the semester, students get to choose their own grade in a portfolio presentation to me.

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  3. Mind. Blown.

    This is an INCREDIBLY thought-provoking post! I’m so intrigued by the single-point rubric, but much more so with your “hacks” as presented. Thank you for sharing this! I will forward to my colleagues and my division will eat it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks.
      I went “No Grades” some time ago and this fit so well into what I felt was necessary to promote learning rather than point accumulation.

      Please let me know if you find some new ways to use the rubric. I’d appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First of all, I LOVE Cult of Pedagogy! I too read about the single point rubric. I’m not a huge fan of rubrics because they are normally so pigeon holed. “When a student earns all 4’s the teacher is often at a loss to make recommendations that promote growth.” Feedback in areas of growth is SO powerful and we lose that with traditional rubrics. This is a great post! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Amanda, when all 4 aspects are earned, it would mean an aspect that is missing needs to be added to the descriptors and becomes part of your feedback in ‘additinal comment’ . Otherwise…earns it so give it. Secondly, the full points earned is for the context under focus…in another assignment, might not be so.

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      1. Sajedaba:

        I guess the type of rubric you use depends upon your purpose. If a teacher wants to point out gradation of proficiency to a standard, a multiple point rubric (like the 4 point rubric) is an appropriate tool. However, if the teacher’s purpose is to individualize learning then fewer descriptors are key and the single point rubric is appropriate. I am all about individualizing learning.

        From my experience, the more descriptors and categories I add to a rubric the more students attempt to conform to the rubric. The fewer I include, the more students take risks and experiment with their learning.

        And because reporting learning is important, I can provide personalized narrative feedback that is available to both students and parents rather than prescribed narratives.

        Lastly, defining an “Exceeding Standards” simply redefines the new learning objective. 4 is the objective and 3 is not (though we claim it is.) For more on this see Thomas Guskey’s post on Exceeds Standards.

        http://tguskey.com/why-the-label-exceeds-standard-doesnt-work/

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