Complicated rubrics often frustrate and overwhelm both students and teachers. All of those rows and columns are time-consuming for teachers to make. The amount of criteria stresses students. Following along and making sure it is all accounted for in the final product is a big task for students – as well as for teachers when grading. However, did you know there’s an easier, simpler, and still effective alternative? Many teachers have met their new best friend in single-point rubrics.

What is a single-point rubric?

Single-point rubrics break the components of an assignment down into different criteria. The focus of the criteria is simply proficiency. It doesn’t list varying point levels correlating with not meeting or exceeding expectations. It typically consists of three columns.

  • Column 1: This column is blank when given to students. It’s where the teacher will write comments on concerns or areas that need work. 
  • Column 2: The middle column contains the criteria/standards for the assignment. It is typically given to the student with the standard for each criteria printed on the form by the teacher.
  • Column 3: The third column is also blank when given to students. This is where teachers write comments on how students exceeded the criteria.

However, teachers don’t have to write comments in the first or last columns. Sometimes criteria was met and there isn’t additional feedback to give. The words in the middle column can simply be highlighted or checked to indicate meeting the standard.

Student self-assessments with a single-point rubric 

Instead of the teacher filling in some or all of the columns, students can also use the rubric to evaluate their own work. Students can use them to evaluate small group or class projects. Students can use single-point rubrics for peer evaluations of the work of classmates. Each student can create their own criteria for assessing a project. This makes it an independent learning experience. On the other hand, groups can also use a single-point rubric for collaborative learning.  Benefits include:

  • Students feeling ownership of their own work.
  • As a result, the learning process becomes the focus instead of grades.
  • Increased critical thinking, analyzation, and evaluation skills.
  • Recognizing strengths and challenges.
  • Reduces comparison and competition among students.

Advantages of single-point rubrics

A 2010 research study showed single-point rubrics increase student achievement, especially when used to assess their own work. Other advantages:

  • Fewer words: This means less time for teachers to create and much higher likelihood students will actually read it. 
  • Open-ended:The columns for concerns and excellence allow teachers (or students if assessing their own work or that of a classmate) the space to comment on an endless amount of factors. Traditional rubrics with assigned point values for each criterion are very rigid and don’t provide space for explanations. Attempting to write notes makes the grading rubric cramped and messy quickly.
  • Versatile: Use single-point rubrics to evaluate projects, papers, math homework, science experiments, classroom jobs, book reports, field trips, movies, student goals, teacher performance, cafeteria lunch offerings, classroom cleanliness, and just about anything else. 
  • Allows space for positive feedback: Perhaps the student missed some of the criteria, but really went above and beyond in other areas. A typical rubric doesn’t take that into account, however, a single-point rubric highlights achievements, not just shortcomings. 
  • Works for all ages and subjects:Teachers and students can benefit from single-point rubrics from pre-k through college and in all subject areas.

Challenges of single-point rubrics

Just like introducing any other new process, there might be a bit of a learning curve while figuring out what works for you and your class. You might also find:

  • Filling in the columns can be time-consuming, especially if giving thorough feedback.
  • Some students (and their parents) may balk at the open-ended format if they are used to having expectations spelled out clearly with points assigned for each component. 

Single-point rubrics are a great way to give students very specific feedback on where they need more work while highlighting strengths. They help teachers evaluate what the child learned in ways traditional rubrics don’t. Looking at a student’s work with space for open-ended feedback is often a refreshing change from narrowing in on very rigid criteria. Additionally, single-point rubrics can be fun for the whole class and help students become excited about projects.