Home Assessment Build Better Assessments With Our “21st Century Assessment” Rubric

Build Better Assessments With Our “21st Century Assessment” Rubric



Are Your Students Learning and Developing Skills Through Their Assessments? They Should be.

I often find the annual Higher Education Horizons report from EDUCAUSE and NMC to be inspiring, and while reading the 2017 edition that came out last month, one particular idea came to mind and I ran with it.

One of my very favorite things to do when it comes to creating course content, lessons, etc., is to build rich assessments. I think a good assessment should give students the opportunity to make some choices (to help enhance their ownership of learning) — choices about the assignment's content, and about how to demonstrate their learning, for example. Even if you are teaching courses with standardized tests, there are probably more opportunities to do this than might first occur to you. I believe that incorporating choice in learning is one of various often overlooked techniques that can make the difference between a so-so educational experience for your students and great one (Larry Ferlazzo has written a lot about this).

The Horizons report encouraged me to think about other things that can help make assessments more meaningful, and indeed, even enjoyable for students: make them inquiry based, and connect them to the real world; let students collaborate; and look for opportunities to incorporate entrepreneurial skills and digital literacy skills.

The next thing I knew, I was developing a rubric that could be used to help build, enhance, and/or assess assessments, with the goal of creating rich, rewarding “21st century” assessments (I'm not really a big fan of that term, but it's still one of the best ways I know quickly infer modern/current and bring to mind vital skills like collaboration and creativity).

So, here it is, my first shot at the “Awesome 21st Century Skills Assessment” Rubric! I hope readers will give me some feedback, critique, and ideas for evolving this. In the meanwhile, feel free to use it yourself, and pass it on! I hope you find it useful.

Below is the assessment in the form of two images. Here it is as a PDF.




  1. Thanks for the feedback J.M., and thanks for sharing the interesting rubric from galileo.org!

    Regarding the writing requirement, you will note that the rubric does not call for pages and pages of writing as a rule, but simply “rewards” or recognizes that requiring some writing is a good thing in this day and age where this vital skill is increasingly falling by the wayside. No matter how ‘tech capable’ a student is, from time they need to be able to compose a couple of sentences, and when they are weak in that area, it can easily reflect poorly on their overall capabilities (IMHO).

  2. I like the idea of this and agree with most of the categories but I disagree that writing needs to be a major component. There are many ways students can communicate their thoughts and ideas, and many of them do not require pages of writing. The 21st C learner needs to be able to use a range of communication methods and be able to select the most effective method for the purpose.
    I also feel that some of the categories need fleshing out to make it clearer what they would look like. Although an inquiry rubric rather than a 21C skills assessment one, this rubric from the Galileo institute is useful to consider in this context: http://galileo.org/rubric.pdf

  3. Mr. Walsh – we really like this rubric and all that it encompasses to make a well-rounded student for the 21st century. It correlates well with our division’s initiative and having teachers focus on communication, collaboration, creativity, citizenship, critical thinking, and wellness. May we use your rubric and adapt it to fit our individual school’s goals?

  4. Thanks Ben. Fleshing out the levels of each category with good examples and differentiating between them can certainly be challenging, and is particularly so for the “real world” element.

    I think one good example of a high level (i.e. “3” rating) for real world connection could be an assignment I currently have students in my Digital Literacy course working on. Students are working as partners to propose a web site that would promote a product or service; or promote awareness of, or a solution for, a societal/world problem (cyberbullying, malnutrition, drunk driving, climate change, etc.). Each student assumes one of two roles. One role requires taking the part of a business/marketing consultant who researches and documents the proposal with specifics like target audience, other sites that do the same basic thing (i.e. competitors), how to differentiate their work from the competition, and so on. The other role is that of Web Designer, and they have to mock up the Home Page of the site and research a domain name, keywords, etc. All of this work is “real world” work – people have jobs doing these specific things, and many web sites have this basic functionality. Contrast this with an assignment that teaches a little bit of HTML code as an effort to familiarize students with how the web works, and I would suggest that perhaps that would rank as more of a “2” in terms of real world application. In other words, an assignment that offers connections to real word applications from multiple perspectives/angles/tasks would be one that rates a 3, whereas one that is more limited scope might rate a 2. Does that make sense?

  5. This is great!

    When I look at the real world connection options for 2 points vs. 3 points, I feel like many teachers can’t grasp what would be beyond the 2 point example. Do you have any concrete ideas for what a 3 point assessment in this category would look like?


  6. There was not an active link for the PDF version of the rubric. I would like to print it to share with colleagues. Great resources for teachers to plan assessments and content.


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