Rubrics

Rubrics are assessment tools used for evaluating student performance.

On this page:

What are rubrics?

A rubric is a set of criteria that includes descriptions of levels of performance quality for each criterion. Grading is therefore constrained to the specific areas the faculty deems important, and the descriptive performance levels help improve objectivity.

Parts of a rubric include:

  • Criteria
    The categories, dimensions or characteristics you value in the task or assignment.
  • Performance levels
    A detailed description of the levels of quality for each criterion.

When grading an assignment, the rater goes through each criterion and determines which performance level was achieved. These scores are then added together to create an overall performance score.

Written feedback can also be given to the student to explain why the assignment fell within the indicated performance level.

Why should I use rubrics?

Benefits for faculty

  • Improves fairness and objectivity in grading.
  • Adds guidance for grading complex assignments.
  • Offers clearer feedback to students (see Feedback).
  • Creates consistency across assignments and increases interrater reliability.
  • Can be used repeatedly.
  • Can easily be adjusted and adapted.

Benefits for students

  • Sets clear expectations for assignments.
  • Guides students to reach learning outcomes.
  • Offers the opportunity for peer and self-evaluation, supporting self-reflection.
  • Provides students with effective feedback.

When to use a rubric

Rubrics are useful when determining a grade is subjective or assignments are open-ended. Rubric use is especially beneficial when:

  • Assignments do not have a single correct answer, such as essays, projects or videos.
  • Consistency between raters is required, such as multiple graders or grading over time.
  • Transparency and fairness are paramount, such as practice interviews with students.
  • Feedback is provided on a large scale, such as grading presentations or projects.
  • Reflectiveness of assessment is important, such as when scores impact student future performances.

How to create a rubric

Before creating a rubric, make sure you have clearly aligned your assignment with your course learning outcomes. (see Learning Outcomes) You should then determine what you will evaluate in their performance. Depending on your assignment and learning outcomes, you can assess multiple goals in one rubric.

For example, if your learning outcome consists of writing a research paper, your criteria may consist of context, content, evidence, thesis statement and organization.

The highest criteria for each section should relate to mastering or exceeding your learning goals. As values decrease, determine what students would be able to do at each level. Ensure that each component is objective and gaps are not present. It may also be beneficial to work collaboratively with colleagues when creating rubrics in order to ensure all important criteria are represented and to determine what different performance levels will include.

After the assessment is given, reflect on student performance and evaluate the validity of your rubric. You can then make changes or adaptations as needed.

Rubrics Workbook

The Rubrics Workbook provides guidance on how to construct and use a rubric for the successful evaluation of higher order thinking skills from more subjective types of assessments. 

Types of rubrics

The following are different types of rubrics you may consider using depending on the type of assignment or situation.

Analytic
Includes explicit descriptions of criteria required to meet the level of quality present for each dimension. Use when you want to see relative strengths and weaknesses, give detailed feedback or quantitatively assess knowledge, attitudes or skills.

Holistic

Used when assessing a performance or attribute as well as for grading assignments quickly. Holistic rubrics don’t necessarily provide in depth feedback to students.

Checklist

Used to identify whether or not criteria are present. For example, a student receives a point value of 1 for each component that is presented and a 0 for each one that is missing. A total score is then calculated. You can also allot more than one point or partial credit for each component.

Additional resources

  • VALUE Rubrics (AAC&U)
    A list of VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) rubrics, organized by learning outcome.
  • Sample Rubrics (Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education)
    Extensive list of sample rubrics from various universities, organized by assignment type. Assignment types include: article reviews, case studies, debates, lab reports, and service learning.
  • Grading & Performance Rubrics (Carnegie Mellon University)
    Examples of rubrics organized by assignment type: paper, project, presentations, and participation.

Literature

  • Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning outcomes: An integrated approach to designing college courses. Jossey-Bass.
    Pages 99-102
  • Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.