Home Speech-Language Pathology Why Use Rubrics to Measure Communication Goals?

Why Use Rubrics to Measure Communication Goals?

by Lisa Kathman
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students talking

students talking

How do you generate and measure communication goals for your students? If speech-language pathologists need to focus on a communication area with black-and-white criteria such as articulation—correct versus incorrect production of a target sound, for example—we usually find it simple to generate goals and measure results. But what about goals for communication areas in gray areas, such as those for pragmatic language skills?

Try rubrics as one option to set and measure social language goals. Instead of measuring a skill with a correct/incorrect scoring criterion, rubrics let us describe skills in a more holistic and natural context. In addition, rubrics offer the chance to incorporate quantitative and qualitative data, including:

  1. Frequency of skill: Determination of the number of times the skill was used correctly.
  2. Hierarchy of skill development: Task analysis identifying the intermediate steps needed to achieve the skill.
  3. Level of support: Cues needed for successful demonstration of the skill.
  4. Setting: Where the skill successfully gets used.

Traditionally, SLPs write goals measurable by data alone. For example: “Mia will independently initiate a conversation on four out of five opportunities as measured by SLP data over the last five opportunities of the grading period.” When developing and using rubrics, we write a goal measured by the rubric’s criteria. For example: “Mia will start a conversation with a peer scoring 14 out of 16 on an ‘Initiating a Conversation Rubric’ measured per grading period.”

When noting progress on goals at each grading period, the score reported will be the rubric score—like 14 out of 16. However, it’s helpful to elaborate in the comments section with criteria details on what each score means. You can either cut and paste information straight from the rubric or type a brief summary, such as:

“Mia initiated a conversation three out of five times. She typically has difficulty gaining attention and relies on her partner to get the conversation going. She needs only one verbal cue to initiate. Mia is able to do this in the speech room only.”

When using this type of measurement tool, it’s useful to attach the rubric to a student’s IEP. It helps parents and teachers understand how you measure the skill and stays with student records if the student moves to a different school or district.

When assessing progress on IEP goals, using rubrics to provide consistent measurements helps demonstrate growth over time. Keep using whatever method you used to obtain a baseline score for the original goal as you monitor progress over the course of the IEP. Rubrics generate clear and understandable results when setting and measuring a student’s use of a targeted pragmatic language skill.

Lisa Kathman, MS, CCC-SLP, is the lead SLP at Mesa Public Schools in Arizona and co-founder of SLP Toolkit, a web application designed to streamline workload and guide best practice for SLPs who are developing IEPs. lisa@slptoolkit.com.

Sarah Bevier, MS, CCC-SLP, is an SLP in the school setting and co-founder of SLP Toolkit. sarah@slptoolkit.com.


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Joy March 16, 2016 - 4:50 am

What are some good rubrics you have used?

Lisa Kathman March 16, 2016 - 11:45 am

Hi Joy –
I’m attaching a link to the rubric referenced in the article above: https://s3.amazonaws.com/toolkit-rubrics/initiating+a+conversation+rubric+-+revised+12-26-15.pdf

Sarah and I have created many pragmatic language rubrics using the format we discussed in this article on http://www.slptoolkit.com. It is free to sign up and use for up to 5 students. You can find the rubrics in the social language tab of the progress monitoring section. We also have some other rubrics for narrative/story retell and picture description in the expressive/receptive section.

Our format is very similar for all of our rubrics so it will give you an idea on how to write your own for skills you are targeting. The challenging part is task analyzing the skill for the qualitative data but I think you will find its an ideal way to measure progress.

Lauren March 16, 2016 - 4:51 pm

I really like this rubric! Social goals are not easily quantified into a right or wrong response, so this is great. It’s a great idea to modify and use for AAC users as well!

Erica March 19, 2016 - 9:35 am

How do you write objectives for a rubric-oriented goal?

Lisa Kathman March 21, 2016 - 3:57 pm

Hi Erica,
We’ve included sample objectives/measurable goals on the rubrics we’ve created (see link to sample rubric posted in a previous comment). But if you make your own rubrics, you would write goals similar to any other indicating the observable skill you want to measure and then using the criteria of the rubric itself to identify baseline and future progress scores. In addition, you will always want to attach the rubric to the student’s IEP both for purposes of the parent later reviewing this information but also if the student moves the new IEP team will clearly understand the criteria for measurement.

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