A Maker Project Rubric

UPDATE: New version added 5 JUL 17. Improved verbiage, CC license added. Also, answering a specific question, the picture is a stainless steel car…we all want our projects to be polished, right?

I get lots of questions about incorporating making into classes here at Davidson, but probably the most frequently-asked is “How do I grade this stuff?” I probably don’t help matters when I emphasize considering process over product, meaning that the most important part of the project is, in some ways, the least tangible. So I started looking around for a maker rubric.

Aside: If, like me, you hate the word “rubric”, “schema”, “scheme”, and plain old “criteria” are fine, too. This is a set of criteria against which to evaluate maker projects.

I found two. The first is the Digital Harbor Foundation’s Blueprint, developed by Scott Dellosso. Though it’s a bit K-12-centric for me to use directly, I love the Blueprint’s simplicity, and the emphasis on flexible application. I also appreciate that a learner with a weak project, but a strong process, can still pass. I use a lot of Dellosso’s suggestions when talking to faculty about how to apply the rubric.

The second is Lisa Yokana’s sample rubric. Yokana’s rubric is high-school focused, and includes an excellent delineation of process, understanding, and product. “Habits of mind” is a useful term when discussing the maker mindset, and Yokana’s emphasis on reflection and growth provides a great hook for talking about these projects to college faculty. In particular, Yokana’s criteria for reflection and understanding are well-developed, and included in this rubric almost verbatim.

So two good options that get a lot of the way there, but neither of which includes 100% of what I wanted. Naturally, I decided a mashup was in order! Presented below is my attempt at a comprehensive set of criteria, and a grading scale. I’d love constructive feedback.

The rubric covers four levels of proficiency that equate very roughly to an A B C D/F grading scale. Critera are divided into two sections: mindset, and execution.

Mindset covers Yokana’s ideas of both process and understanding, and orients more or less around Elon College’s four characteristics of the maker mindset: Makers are intrinsically motivated, makers embrace failure, makers know what they know (and what they can learn), and makers understand it takes time and effort to produce something great. This constitutes the bulk of the evaluation, reflecting a focus on process.

Execution focuses on product, and makes up a relatively small percentage of the total grade. I spend a lot of time arguing that failure is acceptable, and constitutes a valid result. I wanted the rubric to reflect that. As such, even a minimally-acceptable product can get a passing grade, but a great product can lift a middling grade to excellence. That’s a fine distinction, I guess, but there’s always wiggle room.

Each criterion has explanatory text, and a central question that it’s meant to answer, both intended as guides for application. Faculty are encourage to use this rubric as they like, either as a finished product, or as a starting point. It can be modified. It can be provided for student use but not used for actual grading. And naturally the whole thing is a work in progress. Have a look, and let me know what you think.

Maker Rubric Poster

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