Rubrics – Making Subjective Objective

When you need to make a decision or an evaluation, it is vitally important to have a tool that can guide your decision making process and be the means of obtaining an objective ranking for each of the possible outcomes. Many people have systems or even build tools that can help with such choices. Others rely on a simple binary based “pro” and “con” list. Educators know the power of making a good rubric. Using a rubric provides you with an objective path over a subjective terrain.

[Dark street with bright yellow stripes on the side and a person in dark clothing walking across it.]
[Dark street with bright yellow stripes on the side and a person in dark clothing walking across it.]

Rubric: A guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

When I use the term “rubric” at work, I see many people do that head tilt- “dog look” thing to me — “Huh?” Rubrics are very familiar to educators. Nearly all teachers get trained to use a rubric as a means of setting expectations for an assignment and to make subjective grading far less so. The Berkeley Center for Education has a good overview of rubrics, defining them, and providing samples. It defines a rubric as “a tool that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing criteria, and for each criteria, describing levels of quality.”

Writing a rubric forces you to determine what are the objective outcomes you want to measure — your requirements and/or project goals — and to put these things into measurable categories. Determining what weight, if any, each of these items should carry is another way of defining what is important or critical to the definition of success.

Why hasn’t the work world outside of education considered this tool for other purposes? This seems like a huge opportunity to me. Making a good rubric is a way to identify goals, requirements, and expectations. It’s also a way to quantify what can often be qualitative in nature.

For the next big decision you have to make in your work world, consider using a rubric as the process of creating one will be a tremendous guide to achieving a successful outcome.

If you want to learn more about rubrics, the Cult of Pedagogy, a fantastic resource for educators, has many articles about creating and improving them. It would be a huge mistake to overlook what our best educators are doing to achieve successful outcomes.

Photo by Simon King on Unsplash