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Signature Assignments and Rubrics

Signature assignments are those assignments (typically given in courses) that have been adopted by program faculty to assessment program-level learning outcomes.

The college Assessment Committee has said that:

  • The signature assignment related to a learning outcome must be given in all sections of the course to which it is related each time the course is offered;

  • Programs must use rubrics to score all signature assignments and programs are encouraged to use an analytic rubric to capture more refined and detailed data to support program improvement;

  • Programs are free to use whatever scale they wish on their rubrics (i.e., they are not required to use the 0-4 scale reflected on the example rubric on the template), but they must provide a legend (see template) that converts ranges of final scores to the 0-4 scale used by the college.

You can access the college’s rubric template below:

Signature Assignment Rubric Template (PDF | MS Word)

Rubrics have several benefits. First, they are an excellent way for faculty to clarify and make visible precisely what they expect for various levels of performance on an assignment. Second, because of this clarity, they provide students with a clear sense of what they need to do to succeed on the assignment. Third, rubrics are an essential tool for ensuring that our grading is fair, unbiased, consistent, and rigorous.

The following document is a useful resource on creating and using rubrics:

Rubric Resource

Some quick tips for creating a signature assignment and rubric include:

  • Look at the course you’ve identified to house the signature assignment – is there an assignment there that can be easily adapted for the program signature assignment?
  • Once you’ve described the assignment and written directions for it, look at those to establish your criteria. If the assignment calls for students to select and describe a theory, analyze a problem according to that theory, and develop a solution based on the theory, you are probably looking at at least three criteria: theory description, problem analysis, proposed solution.
  • Identify levels of performance for the rubric criteria. Possible phrases to use for each level of performance include:
    • Unacceptable, Marginal, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations
    • Beginner, Developing, Acceptable, Exemplary
    • Does Not Meet Expectations, Almost Meets Expectations, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations
    • Novice, Developing, Proficient, Expert
    • Beginner, Developing, Accomplished, Mastery
    • Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Advanced (AAC&U Board of Directors, Our Students Best Work, 2004)
  • When establishing descriptors for each level of performance, try to start from the extremes and work toward the middle. For instance, for each criterion, imagine what the strongest and weakest assignments might look like. Then work toward the middle levels of performance by describing gradations of those strongest and weakest assignments.
  • Alternatively, work from exemplars of student work. If you have assignments across performance levels, examine those to establish the common traits in each category. What do all the “A” papers have in common related to your criteria? The “D” papers?

As you complete your signature assignments and rubrics, please submit them to the Assessment Office. This will allow us to catch common challenges (e.g., with weighting criteria) and put the systems in place to help you collect data on a regular basis.

Creating and using rubrics is an iterative process. You will want to alter and refine your rubrics as you learn more about the assignment, the rubric, and your students. Be sure to keep the Assessment Office up to date as you make changes so that we can continue to support your work.

last updated — Aug 1, 2016