Introduction

In developing tests and assignments, instructors aim to be clear about the learning objectives they are evaluating and the expectations they have for student performance. They also aim to ensure that they evaluate students’ work consistently and fairly and that students are clear about their expectations and standards. Developing appropriate rubrics allows instructors to meet these goals.

According to the Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation, “a rubric is a type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific components and expectations for an assignment.” Read more

The DePaul University Teaching Commons gives the following definition: “A rubric is simply a scoring tool that identifies the various criteria relevant to an assignment or learning outcome, and then explicitly states the possible levels of achievement along a continuum (poor to excellent or novice to expert).” Read more
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​​​​​​​Using rubrics in grading has advantages for both instructors and students.

​​​​​​​Rubrics Help Instructors:

  • Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student and across time.
  • Save time in grading by allowing students to refer to substantive descriptions in the rubric rather than having to provide individual explanations.
  • Give timely, effective feedback.
  • Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for students.
  • Reduce uncertainty and discourage student complaints about grades.
  • Refine teaching methods by allowing for evaluation of rubric results across entire class and over time.

Rubrics Help Students:

  • Understand components of an assignment and instructor’s expectations and standards.
  • Become more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Improve work through timely and detailed feedback.
  • Monitor and assess their own progress.
  • Participate in meaningful peer evaluation.

Types of Rubrics

There are two main types of rubrics:

Holistic Rubric

Rubric consists of a set of descriptors that generate a single, global score for the entire work. The single score is provided based on raters’ overall perception of the quality of the performance. Holistic rubrics are useful when only one attribute is being evaluated, as they detail different levels of performance within a single attribute. This category of rubric is designed for quick scoring but does not provide detailed feedback. A holistic rubric consists of a single scale with all criteria to be included in the evaluation being considered together (e.g., clarity, organization, and mechanics). With a holistic rubric the rater assigns a single score (usually on a 1 to 4 or 1 to 6 point scale) based on an overall judgment of the student work. The rater matches an entire piece of student work to a single description on the scale.

Advantages:

  • Emphasis on what the learner can demonstrate (rather than what he/she cannot)
  • Saves time by minimizing the number of decisions made
  • Can be used consistently across raters, provided there has been training

Disadvantages:

  • Does not provide specific feedback for improvement
  • Can be difficult to choose a score when student work is at varying levels across the criteria
  • Criteria cannot be weighted

 

Analytic Rubric

​​​​​​​Rubric comprises a set of focused holistic rubrics for specific components that will be evaluated independently. In this type of rubric, scores are provided for several different criteria that are being evaluated. Analytic rubrics provide more detailed feedback to students and instructors about their performance. Scoring is usually more consistent across students and graders with analytic rubrics. An analytic rubric resembles a grid with the criteria for a student product listed in the leftmost column and with levels of performance listed across the top row often using numbers and/or descriptive tags. The cells within the center of the rubric may be left blank or may contain descriptions of what the specified criteria look like for each level of performance. When scoring with an analytic rubric each of the criteria is scored individually. These components might be reported separately or they might be combined to create a global score.

Advantages:

  • Provides feedback on areas of strength or weakness
  • Each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance

Disadvantages:

  • More time consuming to create and use than a holistic rubric
  • May not be used consistently across raters, unless extremely well defined

Developing an Analytic Rubric

  1. Start small by creating one rubric for one assignment in a semester.
  2. Ask colleagues if they have developed rubrics for similar assignments or adapt rubrics that are available online. For example, the AACU has rubrics for topics such as written and oral communication, critical thinking, and creative thinking.
  3. Define the goals of the assignment to be evaluated. Before constructing a rubric, instructors should review the learning objectives associated with the assignment. The rubric can only function effectively if goals are clear.
  4. Decide what kind of rubric to use. The kind of rubric used may depend on the nature of the assignment, intended learning outcomes (for instance, does the task require the demonstration of several different skills?), and the amount and kind of feedback students will receive (for instance, is the task a formative or a summative assessment?).
  5. Define the criteria. Instructors can review their learning objectives to determine specific criteria for the rubric to cover. Instructors should consider what knowledge and skills are required for successful completion and create a list of criteria that assess objectives across different dimensions (comprehensiveness, maturity of thought, revisions, presentation, timeliness, etc.). Criteria should be distinct and clearly described and, ideally, not greater than seven in number.
  6. Define the rating scale to measure levels of performance. Whatever rating scale instructors choose, they should ensure that it is clear and review it in class to address student question and concerns. Instructors can consider if the scale will include descriptors or only be numerical. Rubrics typically include 3-5 levels in their rating scales. Popular rubric scales include A, B, C, F; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Exemplary, Accomplished, Developing, Beginning; Excellent, Competent, Needs Work; Professional, Adequate, Needs Work, Unacceptable; High Mastery, Average Mastery, Low Mastery.
  7. Write descriptions for each performance level of the rating scale. Each level should be accompanied by a descriptive paragraph that outlines ideals for that level, lists or names all performance expectations within the level, and if possible, provides a detail or example of ideal performance within that level. Across the rubric, descriptions should be parallel, observable, and measurable.
    1. ​​​​​​​Avoid using subjective or vague criteria such as “interesting” or “creative.” Instead, outline objective indicators that would fall under these categories.
    2. The criteria must clearly differentiate one performance level from another.
    3. Consider what might an exemplary student product/performance look like? How might an acceptable student product/performance be described? How might work that falls below expectations be described?
  8. Test and revise the rubric. The rubric can be tested before implementation. Instructors can share the rubric and results with faculty colleagues for their opinions and revise the rubric for use in class. Instructors might consider passing rubrics out during the first class and/or with each assignment, to make grading expectations and standards clear as early as possible. Rubrics should fit on one page, so that descriptions and criteria can be views quickly and simultaneously. During and after a class or course, instructors can collect feedback on the rubric’s clarity and effectiveness from students. Instructors should revise a rubric following a course, based on student performance and areas of confusion. Instructors can also provide students opportunities for self-assessment and peer assessment using the rubrics.

Tips for Creating and Using rubrics

  • Keep the rubric to one page, if possible
  • Develop rubric with students, if possible
  • Relate rubrics to student learning objectives
  • Rubrics can be
    • General or task specific
    • Used to evaluate product and/or process
    • Used for formative (feedback) and/or summative (grades) assessment
    • Used for student peer review
    • Used for student self-assessment
  • Make sure students are familiar with the rubric for each assessment
    • Share each rubric with students in advance
    • Explain why and how each rubric will be used
    • When evaluating an assignment, return the rubric with the ratings on it and include comments

Sources

Building a Rubric
Columbia University Center for Teaching and Learning

Creating and Using Rubrics
Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation

Rubric Development
University of West Florida Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Creating and Using Rubrics
Yale University Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning

Designing Grading Rubrics
Brown University Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning

Rubrics
Mount Holyoke College Teaching and Learning Initiative

Rubrics: Useful Assessment Tools
University of Waterloo Center for Teaching Excellence
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Deciding Which Type of Rubric to Use
Southwestern University Debby Ellis Writing Center

Additional Resources

Developing and Applying Rubrics
Azusa Pacific University Center for Teaching Learning and Assessment

How to Use Rubrics 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Teaching & Learning Lab 

Utilizing Rubrics as an Act of Academic Excellence PowerPoint Presentation
Azusa Pacific University Center for Teaching Learning and Assessment

Rubrics PowerPoint Presentation
Swarthmore College Assessment

Value rubrics
American Association of Colleges and Universities

Examples of Rubrics and Formats/Templates

These sites provide examples of rubrics for various types of student work, including written assignments, research projects, class participation, and presentations. They also provide examples of formats and templates for creating rubrics.

Grading Smarter, Not Harder: Making and Using a Rubric
Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence​​​​​​​

Creating and Using Rubrics
Indiana University and Purdue University Indianapolis Center for Teaching and Learning

Rubric Resources
University of Rhode Island Office of Student Learning, Outcomes Assessment, and Accreditation

Tools – Rubrics
Swarthmore College Assessment

Assessment and Instructional Support: Rubric Directory
California State University College of Business and Economics

Writing Rubric for Psychology
Middlebury College Writing and Rhetoric Program

Rubric Bank
University of Hawaii/Manoa Assessment and Curriculum Support Center​​​​​​​

Creating Checks for Learning
University of Texas/Austin Faculty Innovation Center

Grading Rubrics
University of Washington Sociology Teaching Brown Bag