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Blackboard grading forms get a B-

November 30, 2010

Rubric by Olivier Gillet

An assessment rubric is a printed set of guidelines that helps instructors distinguish different levels of quality in student work. It features a grid that describes the learning task, key outcomes, and standards for performance – all shared with students before the task begins. Concourse (Blackboard Vista at ND) includes a rubric tool called the “grading form.” Using this tool can be beneficial, but I have two caveats: 1) the tool is fussy, and 2) good rubrics are hard to create.

Why is it hard to make a good rubric? First, you have to be able to clearly explain what you are looking for. Next, there should be a limited number of outcomes; you probably don’t want to grade fifty papers against twenty criteria. Finally, there’s the matter of standards of performance; it’s not often easy to articulate the difference between excellent and good. Because of these difficulties, I recommend using rubrics primarily for significant tasks that you assign year after year, so you have the opportunity to fine-tune them.

Why do I say the grading form is a fussy tool? You must create the form BEFORE you create the activity where you will use it. You can attach a grading form to a NEW discussion topic, assignment, or grade book column – but you can’t add it to an existing item. Blackboard also requires you to assign points to everything, rather than making it an option. In the plus column, grading forms are not just for the instructor; students can use them in peer review.

How to use grading forms

  1. Enable grading forms (only required once for each course) – from the Build tab click Manage Course, then Settings. Under Tools click Grading Forms, then select True and save it.
  2. Create a form – click Grading Form on the Tools menu, then Create New Form. Now fill in the required information:
    • Title and description
    • Indicators and criteria – change the defaults (click the pencil), remove items, or add new ones
    • Definitions and points – complete the boxes for all indicators and criteria
  3. Create a NEW item (assignment, discussion topic, or grade book column)
    and attach the grading form
  4. Use the form when grading

The help system in Concourse explains the steps in much greater detail, or you can take a look at this handout on Blackboard grading forms (U. of Alberta). If you are interested in implementing this tool, I suggest you create a simple experimental grading form and attach it to an activity that only the demo student can see. Complete the activity yourself under the Student View tab and then grade it.

Background on rubrics:

See the Concourse Tips page for more how-to articles.

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