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  • Writer's pictureTara O'Brien

What are Effort Rubrics?

Effort is defined as the amount of time and energy that students use in meeting the academic requirements expected for achievement (Carbonaro, 2005). Effort is is goal-specific and often these goals are hierarchical. While some goals require limited time and energy, others demand greater commitments of time and energy. Carbonaro (2005) distinguishes between three types of effort: rule oriented, procedural, and intellectual. Rule-oriented effort includes students` ability to follow basic rules and norms including class attendance and good behaviour (Carbonaro, 2005). Procedural effort requires students to address specific requests made by the teacher including completion of assignments, keeping up with coursework, and actively participating during class discussions (Carbonaro, 2005). Thus, procedural effort requires greater time and energy to accomplish than rule-oriented effort. Lastly, intellectual effort requires students to apply cognitive faculties to intellectual challenges (Carbonaro, 2005). This type of effort refers to time, energy, and cognitive effort spend completing assignments and participation in class.

Effort grading via rubric is an attempt to quantify levels of effort exerted by students and perceived by teachers. The style and metrics used on effort rubrics vary widely. However, effort rubrics often include criteria and/or measures of all three types of effort identified by Carbonaro (2005) and include other metrics related to social and emotional development including self-management skills, self-awareness, social-awareness, social-skills, and responsible decision making (CASEL, 2021).

The purposes for effort rubrics are threefold: to inform students about their level of effort (most often as perceived by the teacher), to facilitate the development of self-reflective about effort and specific social-emotional competencies in students, and to improve academic achievement. The research of Michaels and Miethe (1989) found a correlation between student effort and academic grades in university, however, they were unable to determine the quality of student effort expended during study-time. There is a belief among many teachers that increased student effort will inevitably result in higher academic achievement (Michaels & Miethe, 1989). Thus, effort rubrics play a role in supporting this conviction.


Opinion Time!

Effort grades are detrimental to students academically as they do not inform students about next steps in their academic learning, do not provide students with tools or strategies to improve “effort,” and do not support the development of growth mindset. While effort is espoused as important to learning, rubrics often include no information to students about what effort looks like, sounds like, and feels like. Rather than develop competencies to improve effort, struggling students may focus on appearing that they are engaged in “effortful” learning. Effort grades do not serve a purpose and are ineffective in motivating students. Rather than focus on using rubrics and grades to quantify effort, teachers should work to develop motivating and intellectually stimulating classroom environments (Carbanaro, 2005).


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