Using Google Docs for Rubrics

At last year’s annual MassCUE conference, I went to a session presented by Katrina Kennett (@katrinakennett). Her presentation focused on how to use Google Docs to create rubrics, and she outlines the process in this video:

She further explains her process and goals in this blog post.

I was energized by the presentation and immediately implemented Google Spreadsheets to create my own rubrics.

You can create self-grading rubrics if you like, or you can create rubrics that tally the number of rubric points and convert it to a grade. The first might save a little time, but the second allows you more control over the final grade.

I had a little trouble figuring out what formula to use to convert total rubric points to grade. For instance, I have long used the ELA rubrics published by Greece, NY schools. Jay McTighe introduced me to these rubrics many years ago when he visited a school where I was teaching at the time. As a result of his presentation, I came up with a formula for converting these 30-point rubrics to 100-point grades.

What I can’t seem to do with my rubric is determine what formula to put in one of the cells that will convert, say, 25 points to a 90 on an essay. If you can help me with that, please chime in below or email me at dana dot huff at gmail dot com. I had to disable my contact form, unfortunately, because of a barrage of requests for advertising and guest posts. Very frustrating and a subject for a separate rant some other time. I think there should be a formula that can do this, but I wasn’t able to hit the right one. Update: Please see the comments. I have tested the formula suggested in the first comment with a few different configurations, and it works.

I am sharing a link to a Google rubric I have created combining Katrina’s method with the Greece Schools’ rubric. This Google rubric is view only, so if you want to edit it, you will need to make a copy of it. This rubric is Greece’s literary analysis rubric. As you can see, the rubric has five criteria: meaning, development, organization, language, and conventions. It also has six levels of performance.

The easiest way to see how all of this works is to look at the rubric, make a copy of it, and see what’s under the hood by clicking on cells, where you can see the various formulas and conditional formatting rules.

After reading a student’s writing, I determine which cell best describes their level of performance for each criterion and type an exclamation point (!) at the end of the description. Using conditional formatting, I have set up the spreadsheet so that an exclamation point tallies the points for each criterion in the Rubric Score column and turns the background of the selected cell purple so that students can clearly see where their level of performance falls on the rubric. A cell at the bottom of the Rubric Score column totals the points for all the criteria. I then use the chart I shared in my blog post about rubrics and how to convert point-based rubrics fairly (see link above). As I said before, I have not figured out how to get my rubric to convert these points to a numerical grade.

Katrina assigns weights to the different parts of her rubrics, so she was able to set up an auto-grading feature when she selects cells. Here is a link to her rubric so that you can see how it works. As with mine, this rubric is view only, so you must make a copy of it before you can edit it for your use; however, you can click on the cells to see her formulas. As you can see, her use of the Google Rubric is much more developed and more sophisticated than my own.

What is the advantage of using Google Rubrics over paper ones, especially given that I’m not making as sophisticated a use of them as Katrina is?

  • My classroom is almost completely paperless.
  • We are already using Google Docs in my classroom, and using Google Docs for rubrics enables me to put rubrics and docs in one place.
  • Using Hapara, I can create a Google Spreadsheets Workbook for each student and copy each rubric to their workbooks as I create them. They will then have access to each rubric in one workbook. At the end of the year, or even at more frequent intervals, they can look for trends.
  • I can share links to their rubrics in my comments on their essays themselves (in Google Docs) and also in our open gradebook comments area (we use PowerSchool).

Of course, if I can figure out the formula I need to convert rubric points to a grade without weighting, then I’m all set.

Feel free to ask questions (or help me out with my spreadsheet formula) in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Using Google Docs for Rubrics”

  1. Here's a copy of your rubric with the formula you wanted, as best as I understand your other post (40+2*points):

    I do think that tallying an overall grade, however, obscures much of the usefulness of rubrics, by putting the focus back onto a gestalt number and off of the descriptors.

    More to the point, recording an overall grade (as opposed to scores for each column) in your gradebook basically takes a ton of useful data that you've collected and turns it into something close to useless. After all, there's a big difference between a student who has 3s across the board and a mixture of 1s and 6s, even though the total number will come out the same. When it comes time to write progress reports, it is far more useful to have data on the student's meaning, development, organization, and so on, than it is to have recorded the fact that the student got a "84" as a total score.

    There's also the question of whether averaging is the right way to get an "overall" score in the first place. For many kinds of tasks, you could make a good case that the grade should be the floor of the scores on the rubric (this is how things like driving tests work — it doesn't matter how well you merge onto the highway; if you don't stop at a stop sign, you fail, and no amount of skillful driving elsewhere on the exam will help you). That is to say, a student can only be said to exhibit "mastery" when they exhibit mastery across all the categories the rubric measures.

    1. Thank you for the help with the formula. I am admittedly not very good with spreadsheets.

      The debate over grades is a larger issue. I would prefer to dispense with grades, but I must use them because my school requires it. I disagree that this data is "something close to useless" as a result, however. It has never been my experience, in the many years I have taught writing and have used this rubric, that a student is capable of earning a mix of 6's and 1's. And as a matter of fact, I do communicate a great deal of information about a student's writing skills on progress reports, at conferences, and through writing workshop in class.

      I wonder if there was a way for you to express your issues with the rubric and grading in a kinder way. As far as I know, we have had no interactions before, and I'm not sure how long you've been reading my blog, so we don't "know each other" all that well. I think I handle constructive criticism fairly well, but I think you made a lot of assumptions about writing instruction in my class. In short, my feelings were hurt.

      1. I've been a reader for a few years but probably only commented a handful of times.

        Apologies for hurting your feelings. "Close to useless" was hyperbole and certainly not intended to be aimed at you. Obviously the information is still quite useful.

        Like you, I'd rather dispense with grades but have to use them. Also like you, I've used rubrics in this averaging way for many years, averaging the scores together and then entering a single grade into my gradebook as well.

        In my case, I'm now at a school where our gradebooks are open to parents and students, so the question of what grades go in that book take on a greater importance. I realized a few years ago that putting in an overall grade effectively erased (from the gradebook's perspective) all the hard work that had gone into developing a rubric so carefully. Putting all the grades into my gradebook is more information and so it can be confusing, of course, but I think it also has the potential to push conversations in the right direction, or at the very least to make clearer (to students and parents) how much thought goes into assessment.

        1. Thank you. I think assessing writing is always a struggle. In the end, most of us have to put a grade on it. I do make use of our gradebook's commenting feature to explain what goes into a grade. Writing Workshop has been huge in terms of helping students see how to think more critically about their own writing and that of their peers. I am seeing real growth, and I almost don't want to grade it at all after all that work because it seems to reduce it to a number or letter. I have talked about this with my Dean of Faculty. Grades are immensely frustrating.

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