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Benefits of Rubrics in a STEM Lab

What is a rubric?

As most of you know, a rubric is a teaching tool with many benefits.  Rubrics set out specific criteria that the teacher wants students to achieve.  Rubrics are often used for writing and project-based activities.

Benefits of Rubrics in Science and STEM Labs

Rubrics are ideal to use in labs.  In both science and STEM, there is always more than one solution.  Besides that, mistakes are part of the learning process and are to be expected.  Most projects are done in groups.   Because of these factors, rubrics that assess students’ performance in class have huge benefits.  With a performance rubric, work habits and communication skills are assessed.  For example, are students sharing their ideas and listening to other people’s ideas?  Are they staying on task?  Do their voices project during a presentation?  Do they have eye contact?

engineering and design process rubric for elementary grades

A rubric such as the one above is given to the students prior to the start of a project.  This lets the students know what the expectations are ahead of time.  It helps them to monitor their own performance.  Consequently, students learn what it means to perform well.  Usually, if individuals and thus groups are performing well, an assessment like this might be all you need in younger grades.

There are also project-based rubrics.  Once students consistently do well with performance rubrics, starting project-based rubrics works well in science and STEM classes.  This type of rubric spells out the requirements of a project.  A project can be a model, poster, written report, etc.   The engineering and design standards for science at the kindergarten through second-grade level ask students to develop and use models based on evidence.  In the meantime, students in third through fifth grade are asked to construct explanations and design models based on evidence.

a rubric for scientific writing

As you can see in the rubric above, evidence and reasoning are assessed.   This rubric was created for writing but can be modified for most projects.

Getting Student Input When Creating a Rubric

When I created the first rubric, I worked with a group of fourth-graders.  I simply used the steps in the engineering and design process and asked students to work together in small groups to determine what a 1 and a 3 would look like.  Then we got together as a whole group and discussed what they had come up with.  They were pretty much spot on what I would have come up with.  However, they said it in simple terms!  Then we discussed what a score of 2 should look like.  The big thing that they came up with was they didn’t like team members that took over or “hogged” the work.  Hence, we came up with “participated much more than others.”  I find that students don’t mind an assessment when they have input.

Here are links to two rubrics to help you get started on your way!

a link to an engineering and design process rubric and set of poster

rubric for writing a scientific claim





So, what are you waiting for?  Use a rubric in your lab today and see how it benefits you and your students!

And remember, it’s all science!


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