Common Structural Design Features of Rubrics May Represent a Threat to Validity

Stephen Humphry, Sandy Heldsinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


Rubrics for assessing student performance are often seen as providing rich information about complex skills. Despite their widespread usage, however, little empirical research has focused on whether it is possible for rubrics to validly meet their intended purposes. The authors examine a rubric used to assess students' writing in a large-scale testing program. They present empirical evidence for the existence of a potentially widespread threat to the validity of rubric assessments that arose due to design features. In this research, an iterative tryout-redesign-tryout approach was adopted. The research casts doubt on whether rubrics with structurally aligned categories can validly assess complex skills. A solution is proposed that involves rethinking the structural design of the rubric to mitigate the threat to validity. Broader implications are discussed. © 2014 AERA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-263
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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