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  • Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning
  • Alice A. Mitchell
Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback and Promote Student Learning Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia J. Levi Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2004, 112 pages, $17.95 (softcover)

Introduction to Rubrics offers an excellent guide to those student affairs professionals who have articulated clear intended learning and development outcomes and sought ways to measure the degree to which students are mastering those outcomes. The articulation and delivery of outcomes is an important need at both the national and institutional level for student affairs as a profession. While not a "magic wand," use of rubrics affords the practitioner an excellent way to show students and other stakeholders the characteristics of meeting an intended objective, evidence of progress toward meeting that objective, and suggestions regarding continued learning.

Rubrics increasingly are used in course and major-specific settings in higher education, community college, and K-12 education [End Page 352] settings. Student affairs professionals are well-served by observing how rubrics are used in these academic settings and adopting and adapting rubrics for use in the many functional areas of student affairs. Stevens and Levi wrote, "At its most basic, a rubric is a scoring tool that lays out the specific expectations for an assignment. Rubrics . . . provide a detailed description of what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable levels of performance" (p. 3).

The examples in the book are focused on classroom/academic course examples of rubrics in use. Some student affairs professionals may see chapter titles such as "Rubric Construction and the Classroom" and "Grading with Rubrics" and conclude that the use of rubrics is limited to credit-bearing courses in the formal academic curriculum. "Adopt and adapt" might become a mantra and an imperative for those readers. If student affairs is to truly assert and substantiate its contribution toward student learning, it must clearly state the specific learning and development outcomes it intends for students; identify the programs, services and other learning opportunities through which students may reach those objectives; and measure student progress toward those ends. This is one foundation upon which student affairs more clearly and more cogently might claim the out-of-classroom environment as its classroom. Toward those ends, rubrics become another tool through which to measure the manner and degree to which students are acquiring the knowledge, skills, and attitudes we intend. In translation and application, then, the title of chapter 4 becomes "Rubric Construction beyond the Classroom."

Though the book requires a sort of "student affairs translation" in its examples, that translation is well worth the effort and opens critically important new ground for the profession. Student affairs readers will be helped by regular mention throughout the book of the theoretical literature that is a basis for student affairs practice: Perry (1970) and King and Kitchener (1994) are just two examples.

While the book is focused on in-classroom use, innovative student affairs practitioners readily can apply rubrics to the intended learning and development outcomes in orientation, residence hall staff training, leadership development activities, and a wide range of typical student affairs student learning situations. For example, what would students who have completed orientation be expected to know and be able to do? One intended outcome could be "Students will have the ability to use campus student services especially applicable to new students." How might students demonstrate having met this intended learning outcome? During or at the conclusion of orientation, students might be given a written or role-play scenario describing a typical new student situation. Orientation participants could be asked to (a) paraphrase and summarize the needs of the student in the scenario, (b) identify the office or programs most likely to meet those needs, and (c) identify emotions, misgivings or other impediments that may preclude the student from seeking assistance from the services or offices mentioned. As Stevens and Levi outlined, these would be the "task description" ("Students will have the ability . . .") and "dimensions of the assignment" ("paraphrase and summarize . . . identify the office . . . identify emotions") (pp. 5-6). Student affairs professionals constructing the rubric would describe "what constitutes...


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