A meme of a teacher wishing for a single point rubric.

Effective Assessment and Feedback: The Single Point Rubric


I’ve never really been focused on grades in my classroom. Some educators and parents might find it shocking to read a teacher put that in print.  However, what I mean is that I seldom talk to my students about levels and letter grades.  I focus discussion around feedback, improvement, exemplars and success criteria.  When rubrics were all the rage I used them rather unsuccessfully. I found that traditional 4 level rubrics were about evaluating after the fact rather than providing feedback that can be acted upon during the learning. Rubrics are sometimes handed to the students as a “big reveal” when the project has been evaluated without any chance for acting on feedback.  I don’t believe that success criteria should be a secret to be kept from students.  It isn’t fair that students are thinking, “Well, if you’d only told me that was an expectation I’d have been happy to include it.  I can’t read the teacher’s mind!”  Clear is kind.  Be clear about the learning goals and success criteria for an assignment and give the students a rich task that they will have to dig into and get feedback to act upon during the learning.

Apart from the evaluative vs. the assessment function of a traditional rubric there are two other things that I dislike about the traditional 4 level rubric.  The first thing is that traditional rubrics inform students about what the bare minimum is that they have to do to complete something.  Some students will look at level 2 and do only just what it takes to fulfill that level.  Secondly, level 4 is meant to go above and beyond the expectations.  In a traditional rubric, students seeking level 4 don’t need to think outside the box at all.  All of the criteria for a level 4 is clearly stated-no thinking necessary.

The answer to this assessment question?  For me it was the Single Point Rubric.  Using the single point rubric changed the learning for my students and shifted my assessment practices. It focuses on what the student is doing well, what the student can do to improve in the work and exactly what the learning goal and the success criteria is for the learning.  However, it also allows for the above and beyond to be driven by the student.  It lets the student pleasantly surprise the teacher with creative thinking.  It is a clear and kind way to deliver feedback to students to encourage them to be successful in their learning.

I have included an example for a grade four  Single Point Rubric Literary Response.  Feel free to copy and change it to suit your needs.

If you would like to learn more about Single Point Rubrics:

Cult of Pedagogy

Edutopia-6 Reasons to Try the Single Point Rubric



Training Students To Have Independent Reflection Skills

Assessment in my music room follows a gradual release of responsibility model. I explicitly teach students how to self-assess their ability to create and play a song correctly. I do this regularly throughout the year as we learn how to play different instruments, songs and arrangements.


Co-creating a Criteria

Near the beginning of a new unit, the students and I co-create criteria using Anne Davies’ Model. This process helps me understand where my students are in their assessment for learning and often identifies areas where they will need help. You can see from the picture below that my students really understand the idea that you are supposed to cover the holes when you are playing music on the recorder, but tonguing is something that this class needed a lot of help with, as only one student used it as part of the criteria. The criteria that we create is used in all subsequent lessons to help students have a deep understanding of how they can be successful.

anne davies


co created

After we have written the criteria, I have the students use the criteria to assess me while I am performing a piece of music.  I explain thoroughly each part of the criteria as I demonstrate what a level 4 looks like. In the next three or four classes that follow, I do a warm up using the criteria until I feel that the class has a firm grasp on how they will be assessed. I want them to be empowered to be able to explain and use the criteria that we have created. In the warm up, I play for them and they give me feedback. I fill in the gaps or explain any pieces of the criteria that they are not fully understanding.

Assessment as learning

After students have some understanding of how they will assess themselves, they spend time receiving feedback from both me and their peers. They play for me in person and through Google Classrooms.

partner reflection

After the first couple of times that they play with me, I ask them to assess themselves with my support. I train them to express their next steps orally with me in small groups or one on one. For those students who need further practice, I do small group instruction where they play and we work through each part of the criteria until they understand it fully.

Assessment of learning/Celebration of Learning

Once each student is able to fully assess themselves confidently, they have so much ownership over their growth and I focus on helping them achieve as much as they can in one year! My assessment of learning is always a celebration of how far the students have come. I always make it a point to show them their progress as they move through various units, so that they have confidence in their abilities.

This process takes quite a bit of time, but it is well worth the skills that the students acquire.  The skills required to be able to identify areas of need are the skills that will carry our students through much bigger challenges than Hot Cross Buns on the recorder.

Photo of Mike Beetham

Shifting to Assessment As Learning

How did I do teacher? Did I do it right? Is this what I am supposed to do?  These are the questions that I have heard over and over my entire career. I began to wonder why is it that my students always need to have me tell them how they are doing. As my understanding of good assessment practices evolved, so did my understanding of assessment as learning. This is the ultimate goal of what effective assessment practice strives to create in learners.

Once students not only know what they are doing, but what a successful product looks like (success criteria), they shift from teacher focussed to student directed. At first my practice consisted of the criteria being established by me and then shared with my students. As I continued to enhance my understanding of effective assessment practice (Damian Cooper – Talk About Assessment 2006) I began to experiment with student created criteria. Lo and behold, not only did my students get it, they now owned it and the task became contextually valid to them.

My current pedagogy that I am phasing into my practice is a daily debrief on the day’s learning. I will often use it at our final circle time of the day, journal writing or individual conferencing. The following questions are my guide:

What did you learn today?                 How do you know you learned it?

How well did you learn it?                  What helped you learn it?

What did you find difficult to learn today?                     Why?

What could you do tomorrow to make it easier to learn?

Where can you use what you learned today?

I usually choose two questions and focus on a specific area. What did you learn in mathematics today? I am very happy with the beginning results I am obtaining. I have just recently started to take a few notes from the discussion and remind students the following day so that they can use their own feedback to assist with the new day’s learning.

If you have any other prompts or guiding questions that you use, please post them for other to use.