How to Use the "4 C's" Rubrics (2023)

This excerpt appears in the Buck Institute for Education's book, "PBL for 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity." Rubrics for each of the "4 C's" are in the book, and we offer guidance below on how to use them in a PBL context. They are also available to download on BIE's website at the following links:

  • Upper Elementary School Presentation Rubric
  • Middle School Presentation Rubric
  • High School Presentation Rubric

What these rubrics assess

These rubrics describe what good critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity & innovation look like in the context of Project Based Learning. The rubrics do not describe these competencies as they are seen generally or in other settings. For example, the Common Core State Standards for English/Language Arts call upon students to think critically when reading literature by making inferences and determining the author’s intent. But since the particular content of projects will vary, the Critical Thinking Rubric for PBL only describes aspects of critical thinking that apply to tasks found in all projects, such as evaluating the reliability of a source of information. The same is true for communication; instead of describing competency in all types of communication, such as writing or listening to a speaker, we have chosen to focus the rubric on making a presentation, a competency common to all projects.

How to Use the "4 C's" Rubrics (1)

What these rubrics do NOT assess: “content”

These rubrics are designed to assess only the 4 C’s, not subject-area knowledge in, say, math, history, or science. This content should be assessed with a separate rubric—or by adding rows to these rubrics. A “content + 4 C’s” rubric can be created by the teacher for the particular product in the project, and target particular content standards. For example, the Presentation Rubric for PBL includes criteria for how well a student organizes ideas, speaks, and uses presentation aids. However, the rubric does not mention specific terminology, concepts, or subject-area information that should be used in the presentation, as determined by the teacher. The same goes for critical thinking; the rubric does not assess subject area knowledge when teams in a biology class decide if the government should fund gene therapy research or teams in an English class investigate the relevance of Macbeth to modern society. In other words, the rubric is designed to assess critical thinking skills used in projects anchored in subject-area content, but that content should be assessed separately.

How these rubrics align with Common Core State Standards

Competency in critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity is required to meet many of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts and Literacy for History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. he 4 C's arereflectedin the "Mathematical Practices" section of CCSS, but not in the specific numbered standards, so they are not cited.

In these rubrics, note that:

  • Specific ELA standards are cited in the “At Standard” column only, but their intent is reflected in the “Approaching” and “Below” columns too.
  • Exact CCSS language is used when possible—which could be useful as a vocabulary-building opportunity for students—but occasionally we used more student-friendly terms.
  • The CCSS does not specifically address all of the 21st century competencies used in PBL, so some items appear on the rubrics without “CC” citations.

How to use these rubrics

The primary purpose of these rubrics is to help students reflect on their work and understand more clearly what they need to do to improve. Consider these tips for using the rubrics:

  • Teachers may use the rubric as a source of guiding ideas for creating their own rubric, or choose not to use certain rows, or adapt the language to fit the needs of their students and the design of the project.
  • Teachers should help students understand the rubric; give examples, explain new vocabulary words, put the language in their own words, and so on. Show models of the performance and have students practice using the rubric to assess them.
  • Give students the rubric near the beginning of a project. Have them assess themselves and reflect on their progress at checkpoints and at the end.
  • A student’s performance may be described by some items in one column and some in another.

How to find evidence of 21st century competencies

Sources of evidence for 21st century competencies may include journals or other writing in which students document their use of the competency, self- and peer-reflections, and teacher observations. Another source of evidence is the product students create and/or their explanation of how it was created. For example, when students share project work with an audience a teacher can, in addition to assessing their competency in making a presentation, ask them to explain how they used critical thinking or followed the process of innovation.

How these rubrics are organized

Two of the rubrics, Critical Thinking and the “Process” section of Creativity & Innovation, are organized by the four phases of a typical project. This is because different aspects of these competencies come into play at different times. The other two rubrics, for Collaboration and Presentation, do not follow the phases of a project. The Presentation Rubric is only used in the last phase of a project, when students share their work with a public audience. However, competency in collaboration is relevant to all phases of a project. For example, a student should complete tasks on time, build on others’ ideas, and show respect for teammates not just at the beginning of the project, but throughout it.

The columns along the top describe levels of quality:

  1. Below Standard: What students do when they have not yet shown evidence of the competency.
  2. Approaching Standard: What students do when they are showing some evidence of gaining the competency, but still have gaps or deficiencies.
  3. At Standard: What students do when they show evidence of having gained the competency to an appropriate degree for their age and experience.
  4. Above Standard: What students do when they go beyond what is expected to demonstrate competency. This column is left blank, with space for making a check mark. See the notes below on how to use this column.

How to use the “Above Standard” column

It’s hard to predict or describe what a student may do when performing “Above Standard” but it’s often the case that “you’ll know it when you see it.” For this reason, we’ve left this column blank. A teacher could wait until it happens, then describe it. For example, an advanced critical thinker might make an especially insightful analysis of a text or source of information. A student with advanced competency in collaboration might show leadership that brings out the talents and efforts of others on a team. A highly skilled presenter might use humor, emotion, stories, metaphors, or interactive features “like a pro.” A creative product might have a “wow factor” or be similar to what an adult professional might create.

A teacher could also involve students in co-constructing language for the “Above Standard” column. Have them analyze samples of work from previous projects or professional products, then describe what makes them “go beyond expectations.”

How to assign scores or grades

These rubrics do not feature a numerical scale—we leave it up to the teacher who uses them to decide how to assign scores or grades. Some dimensions may be given more or less weight. For example, on the Collaboration Rubric, “Helps the Team” might count for more than “Respects Others,” depending on a teacher’s goals.

Within each of the levels of quality described by the rubric, there could be variation, so a teacher may want to allow for a range of scores or points in each. For example, a very weak “Below Standard” performance could be scored a “1” and a “2” could indicate a somewhat weak performance. Similarly, a very advanced or “Above Standard” performance could be scored as a “6” with a “5” being “At Standard.”

Feel free to draw language from the rubrics to create your own scoring guides for use with students, teachers, adult mentors, or presentation audience members.


How do you use the 4Cs in the classroom? ›

Here are 3 simple steps that use the 4 C's to help students learn your subject:
  1. Step 1: Prompt Critical and Creative Thinking. After introducing and modeling a new concept, prompt students to think critically and creatively about it. ...
  2. Step 2: Prompt Communication and Collaboration. ...
  3. Step 3: Present. ...
  4. Scheduling the Steps.

What are the 4Cs that a teacher should have and explain each? ›

The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C's: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond. Critical thinking is focused, careful analysis of something to better understand it.

Why are the 4Cs important skills for our students to develop? ›

The 4Cs help build executive function skills.

These skills help children develop self-regulation, working memory and cognitive flexibility which will encourage them to learn new ideas and develop their social-emotional capabilities.

What are the 4Cs rubric? ›

These rubrics describe what good critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity & innovation look like in the context of Project Based Learning. The rubrics do not describe these competencies as they are seen generally or in other settings.

What are the 4Cs and how do we use it? ›

Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity are considered the four c's and are all skills that are needed in order to succeed in today's world.

What are the 4Cs used for? ›

The 4 C's of Marketing are Customer, Cost, Convenience, and Communication. These 4 C's determine whether a company is likely to succeed or fail in the long run. The customer is the heart of any marketing strategy. If the customer doesn't buy your product or service, you're unlikely to turn a profit.

What are the 4Cs model of effective communication? ›

They give us the four C's of effective communication: clarity, coherence, control and credibility. If you want the reader to follow your thought, you need to do three things: Tell the reader where you're going, present your information or explain your thinking and offer your conclusion.

What are the 4Cs model of effective communication define each? ›

The incredible tool is the 4Cs Model - it stands for Comprehension, Connection, Credibility, and Contagiousness. You don't need to be a professional writer to achieve mastery of messaging for memorable and effective communication. The 4Cs Model is easy to grasp and apply to each communication piece you create.

What are the Four Cs which are key to employees? ›

How to Onboard New Employees Successfully: According to Dr. Talya Bauer from the SHRM Foundation, successful onboarding involves proactively covering The Four C's. This stands for compliance, clarification, culture, and connection.

How can the four skills be used together effectively? ›

The four macroskills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) are all part of normal language proficiency and use. They can also work together in language acquisition, and the phrase integrated skills is commonly used to describe curricula that develop the skills in parallel fashion.

What is the most important of the 4Cs? ›

That's why cut is the most important of the 4Cs—if a diamond is poorly cut, no clarity grating, color grading, or carat weight will make up for it. The diamond will look dull and glassy. When a diamond is cut to the proper proportions and symmetry, it will return light out of its top.

What are the 4Cs which makes a person to think positive? ›

The 4Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Collaboration in Schools.

What is an advantage of a 4 point scale rubric *? ›

Grades are more useful and meaningful: ​When students get clear grades and feedback on a four point scale, they can monitor their progress and set goals for their learning. Teachers can also provide more specific feedback on how to improve from a “3” to a “4”, using the rubric.

What is the advantage of a 4 point scale rubric over a 5 point rubric? ›

Less Chance of Failing and More Accurate Grades

Using the 4-point rubric, there is only a 8 point range that equates to an F. The grades are more evenly spread throughout the grading scale. In using this new grading system, you will see significantly less F grades in your gradebook.

What steps make up the four C method? ›

According to the report, the cornerstone of becoming a successful learner at any age comes down to the four C's: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication.

Which of the 4Cs means sharing thoughts questions ideas and solutions? ›

Communication is about sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions. Collaboration is about working together to reach a goal and putting talent, expertise, and smarts to work. Critical thinking is looking at problems in a new way and linking learning across subjects and disciplines.

How many C's of effective communication are used? ›

Using the 7 C's of communication, that is when you're clear, concise, concrete, correct, consider the speaker, complete and courteous, with your message, you will become an effective communicator and find more success in your interactions with people.

What is C's of effective communication? ›

Effective Communication Skills

Remembering to be clear, cohesive, complete, concise, and concrete when communicating will help improve your writing.

What are 4c soft skills? ›

The four C's of 21st Century skills are:

Critical thinking. Creativity. Collaboration. Communication.

What are the four 4 main components of communication define each? ›

The communication process is made up of four key components. Those components include encoding, medium of transmission, decoding, and feedback. There are also two other factors in the process, and those two factors are present in the form of the sender and the receiver.

What are the 4 C in employability skills? ›

The 4 Cs – critical thinking, collaboration, customer-centricity and creativity - are emerging as the four critical employee thinking styles that drive successful team and customer outcomes.

How do you apply efficient assessment in the classroom? ›

Effective formal assessment tasks
  1. directly relate to the learning intentions or particular learning outcome.
  2. are explicit about what learners are required to do.
  3. are time efficient and manageable.
  4. include clear and explicit assessment criteria.
  5. provide challenge for the full range of learners being assessed.
Jan 17, 2022

How do you engage different learning styles in the classroom? ›

Tips for Accommodating
  1. Engage the student in conversation about the subject matter.
  2. Question students about the material.
  3. Ask for oral summaries of material.
  4. Have them tape lectures and review them with you.
  5. Have them tape themselves reviewing material and listen to it together.
  6. Read material aloud to them.
Apr 6, 2021

What are the purposes of four skills activities in the language classroom? ›

Four skills activities in the language classroom serve many valuable purposes: they give learners scaffolded support, opportunities to create, contexts in which to use the language for exchanges of real information, evidence of their own ability (proof of learning) and, most important, confidence.

How does community language learning work in the classroom? ›

Community Language Learning (CLL) is a language teaching method which involves psychological aspect and students work together to develop what skill of a language they would like to learn. This method firstly developed by Charles A. Curran and his association which is called Counseling-Learning theory.

How do you make an accurate and productive use of assessment? ›

Assessment of learning - create end of unit assessments/quizzes and analyse the data to understand pupil progress. Use before and after unit assessments to assess pupil progress. Communicate with subject leaders about how their subject may be assessed using both summative and formative assessments.

What is the most effective way of assessing students? ›

Information about student learning can be assessed through both direct and indirect measures. Direct measures may include homework, quizzes, exams, reports, essays, research projects, case study analysis, and rubrics for oral and other performances.

What is the most effective assessment strategies? ›

Assessment Strategy Definition

Identify the weakness of the learner. Recognize the unique learning needs of an individual learner. Track the progress of the learner. Collect feedback for the current teaching methods employed by the learner in the form of its effectiveness.

What are 4 strategies for effective classroom management? ›

5 Effective Classroom Management Strategies
  • Express clearly what your expectations are for your students. ...
  • Collaborate on classroom goals with your students. ...
  • Focus on students' social-emotional well-being. ...
  • Build relationships with your students.
Mar 29, 2022

How do you help employees who are struggling with learning concepts? ›

Here are two actions that you can take to help your team member and close the learning gap.
  1. Supplement with mentorship. As a leader, there's a natural expectation that when you assign a project, it will just get done. ...
  2. Consistently provide feedback.
Apr 1, 2019

How do you promote diversity and inclusion in the classroom? ›

How can you Promote Diversity and Multiculturalism in the Classroom?
  1. Get to Know Your Students. ...
  2. Maintain Consistent Communication. ...
  3. Acknowledge and Respect Every Student. ...
  4. Practice Cultural Sensitivity. ...
  5. Incorporate Diversity in the Lesson Plan. ...
  6. Give Students Freedom and Flexibility.

Why is it important for a teacher to teach the four language skills? ›

Four skills activities in the language classroom serve many valuable purposes: they give learners scaffolded support, opportunities to create, contexts in which to use the language for exchanges of real information, evidence of their own ability (proof of learning) and, most important, confidence.

Why should we integrate the four skills? ›

From these theories, integrating four skills will encourage the students' motivation to effectively provoke their language ability. The students tend to learn to speak and to write from what they hear and see or read (Harmer, 2007b).

What are the four skills and how are they useful in language learning? ›

Benefits of testing the four skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) When we say that someone 'speaks' a language fluently, we usually mean that they have a high level in all four skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing.

What interaction does a teacher use in the CLT lesson? ›

Classroom interaction

In particular, CLT makes use of roleplays, pair work and group work tasks. These forms of interaction provide some important benefits. One benefit is that students usually find these forms of interaction motivating and engaging.

Why CLL is the best method? ›

The CLL method is based on principles that reinforce the communication between learners rather than the production of 'correct' language. As communication requires ease and security, learners' needs and feelings are addressed with due regard in every aspect of the teaching process.

How do you create an effective learning community? ›

How to create and sustain effective professional learning communities
  1. Understand your goals. ...
  2. Clearly position your community and align the goals of members. ...
  3. Provide structure and guidance: Group rules and a shared set of norms. ...
  4. Create a culture of collaboration and empowerment. ...
  5. Create a culture of growth.
Mar 16, 2021


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