Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Authentic Rubrics

Lindsay Hawkins, Lindsay Williams | Published: September 16th, 2020 by K20 Center

Essential Questions

  • Do rubrics guarantee more authentic learning?

  • Do the use of rubrics promote college readiness?

Learning Goals

  • Participants will identify “whys” of using rubrics for authentic assessment to promote college readiness.

  • Participants will brainstorm and identify connections between the "whys" and “hows” of using rubrics for authentic instruction and assessment in the classroom.

  • Participants will create a T-chart to illustrate the connections between the why and how of rubrics in the classroom.

Materials List

  • "Authentic Rubrics" PowerPoint

  • Scratch paper

  • Poster paper (per group)

  • Markers, pens, or pencils

  • "Authentic Rubric Samples"

  • "Authentic Learning and Teaching Rubric"

  • "How and Why T-chart"

  • "Instructional Strategy Note Sheet"

  • "Rubrics Traditional vs Authentic"

  • "Evaluating the Rubric"

  • "The Trouble with Rubrics"

  • Post-it pads


Inform participants that several new instructional strategies will be introduced to them throughout the session. These strategies are tools to support higher-order thinking in an authentic way. Encourage participants to use their "Instructional Strategy Note Sheet" to jot down ideas for how they would personalize a strategy to be a tool in a specific class or lesson. Once all the new strategies are modeled, the presentation will allow time to reflect on how to use the strategies.

Show the "Objectives," slide 3. "Today you will have protected time to engage in hands-on activities evaluating How and Why we use rubrics to promote authentic instruction. I will provide time for you to brainstorm and create rubrics to use in a lesson of your choosing." This will provide a road map of where you will go together during the session and let them know what to expect from the session.

Move to the slide "Strike Out."

Strike Out explained: From the large group, have participants get into small groups of four and make a list of why teachers use rubrics. Each list should have at least seven items or statements listed. Pass the list clockwise to the next group. Each group will evaluate the new list they received and strike out the least important piece of information. Continue to pass lists to the right until only the most important information remains. There should be only one or two key ideas or statements remaining on the list.

As a whole group, share out the most important items that were left remaining on the papers/posters. Discuss as a large group the similarities and differences found among groups for why teachers use rubrics.

Briefly show the slide "Why We Use Rubrics" and ask, "Do your remaining ideas about rubrics fit in the traditional assessment or the authentic assessment?" Explain that rubrics are a form of authentic assessment only if they follow the criteria of the authentic side of the chart.

Now move to the next slide ("It's Alive!!!") and give each group a chance to revive one of the original items or statements that had been struck out in the last activity. Take a moment and allow participants a chance to share out about why they picked that item or statement. Ask, "How does it fit under an authentic assessment?"


Once the participants have finished sharing which statement or idea they would revive on their list, change to the next slide, another copy of "Why We Use Rubrics." Participants will refer to the right side of this chart on the slide and on their "Rubrics Traditional vs Authentic" handouts.

In this next activity, all participants will vote on three components that they believe are the most important in developing a rubric. Once the three most important components have been identified, move to the next slide, "Building It Together," which is intended to be used with the handout, "Evaluating the Rubric with six Components." Have all participants write their three components down on the handout.

Identified content areas will then use these three components of authentic assessment and work together in a small group to evaluate a given rubric and discuss what could be done better.

At this time, distribute "Authentic Rubrics" for each content area (the handout has four examples of rubrics to choose from). Allow time for the participants to work in small groups evaluating the rubrics based on the three attributes they voted upon.

Instruct the group to rate the rubric on a scale of one to three using the "Attributes of Authentic Assessment," including the work from McTighe and O'Conner (2005), on slide eight.

After evaluating the sample rubric, have participants come up with ways to make the rubric more authentic.


Introduce the Four Corners speaking activity. Once participants have had ample time to analyze and share the attributes of the given rubrics, present the statement, "The use of rubrics guarantees more authentic learning." Give the participants a moment to think about all the types of assessments they use in the classroom and how much they agree or disagree with the statement. Once they have a had a moment to evaluate where they stand in regards to that statement, instruct them to move to one of the following four corners: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree.

After all participants have made their decisions and moved to their chosen corners of the room, allow them to discuss their decision with their group members. Then allow the groups to share out why they agree or disagree with the statement. Once finished, they may return to their seats.

Change to slide 11, "What does the research say?"

Provide an explanation of Kohn's rationale in the short excerpt from Kohn's article, "The Trouble with Rubrics." Instruct participants to quickly read through the short except from Kohn's article using Why Lighting. Have participants identify the three problems Kohn is addressing in the excerpt. Lead a short discussion about what they found in the last three paragraphs.

After participants share a few key problems from Kohn's excerpt, click through slide 11 and briefly share the research listed affirming what the participants shared.

  1. Dropout statistics show that numerous so-called "normal" students are not succeeding because they are not treated as individuals.

  2. Active learning embraces teaching and learning strategies that engage and involve students in the learning process.

  3. Students find new and creative ways to solve problems, achieve success, becoming life-long learners when educators show different ways to learn.

  4. There is a correlation between high truancy rates and low academic expectations.

Move to the slide "Beware of the Rubric Traps." Remind the participants that rubrics are not assessments only to be used for self-justification, as replacements for number grades, or only because they can be quick and efficient. Authentic rubrics promote and encourage divergent thinking, develop meaningful skills, emphasize cooperation, and the assessment guides curriculum and instruction. Also, not all lesson assessments lend themselves to the need of a rubric, as discussed in the Four Corner activity.

Move to the slide "Whys and Hows T-Chart." Begin by quoting Alfie Kohn, "When the how's of assessment preoccupy us, they tend to chase the why's back into the shadows." Ask, "What does this mean to you?"

Have participants use the T-chart they received in their packets to brainstorm thoughts about why we use rubrics and how we use them to address the why.

As a group, discuss the focus of "why" we use rubrics.


Show slide 14, "Authentic Teaching," then instruct participants to discuss the following question with an elbow partner: "Which of these four components do you see represented from authenticity in the use of authentic rubrics for assessment?" Refer to the "Authentic Learning and Teaching" handout to support answers.

Place participants in content-related groups, and allow time for the discussion of what type of lessons best fit with the use of rubrics. Have group representatives share out to the large group.

Change to slide 15, "Explore RubiStar." Begin looking at the website Rubistar. Allow groups to explore Rubistar. Use the hyperlink in the PowerPoint to demonstrate how easy and quick it is to create a rubric.

If time allows, instruct them to pick a lesson they believe might benefit from the use of a rubric. Create and develop a rubric using the website and the tools from the "Rubrics Traditional vs Authentic" handout. As they work to create their own rubrics for a lesson, walk around and help those with questions.


At the end of the session, have participants individually use the instructional strategy 3-2-1 as an exit ticket to wrap up the session. Participants will write three things they learned from today's professional development, two questions they still have about writing/creating rubrics, and one lesson that lends itself to the use of a rubric.

At the end of the session, if time allows, participants may share out one of their two questions. This will provide an opportunity for the presenter to clear up any misunderstandings or misconceptions about Rubrics. It will also provide an opportunity for the participants to reflect on their learning.

Remind participants to fill out their "Instructional Strategies Note Sheet." This will be a great reference tool once they are back in the classroom planning for lessons.

Research Rationale

Rubrics are used for assessing student performance on authentic learning tasks. They allow for student ownership and empowerment. Rubrics challenge learners to focus on knowledge that could be applied in a real-world environment. This ownership and empowerment can lead to higher levels of engagement and participation, which can lead to more motivation to attend school. Attendance is imperative to academic success for career or college readiness, and rubrics for authentic assessment support this aspect of college readiness (Reimer and Smink, 2005).