Evaluating student performance for feedback and fairness.

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The Importance of Rubrics

A rubric is an assessment tool that includes:

  • Criteria: The categories or characteristics that 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 evaluation. Written feedback can also be given to the student to explain why the assignment fell within the indicated performance level.

Rubrics have several benefits for instructors and students:

Benefits for Instructors

  • 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.

While rubrics require an investment to create and calibrate, the long-term savings in time and the improved quality of feedback and objectivity in grading makes them a valuable resource to include in your course.

Using Rubrics in Your Course

Types of Rubrics

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


Used to quantitatively evaluate knowledge, attributes or skills while providing detailed feedback about strengths and weaknesses. Includes explicit descriptions of criteria required to meet the level of quality present for each dimension.


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.


Used to identify whether 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.

Higher Order Thinking Skills

It is often difficult to create concrete measurable criteria to assess higher order thinking skills. For example, what makes one argument more critical than another? The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has created a variety of rubrics to assess student learning in the following areas:

Intellectual and Practical Skills Personal Social Responsibility Integrative and Applied Learning
  • Inquiry and analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Written communication
  • Oral communication
  • Reading
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Information literacy
  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving
  • Civic engagement – local and global 
  • Intercultural knowledge and competence
  • Ethical reasoning
  • Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
  • Global learning
  • Integrative learning

Applying Rubrics

Rubrics are useful when determining if 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 the assessment is important, such as when scores impact student future performances.

One impactful way to apply rubrics is to guide students. Consider using a rubric as follows:

  1. Share the rubric before the assignment begins and have a discussion with students about its categories and criteria. Answer any additional questions that may arise.
  2. Review an assignment example or exemplar with the class and think aloud while using the rubric as an evaluation tool.  Ask students to help grade the example in each category and justify their responses with evidence. Support students through this process through modeling, scaffolding and feedback.
  3. After students are comfortable using the rubric, have them give peer feedback while also practicing independent critical thinking skills. Both peer and instructor feedback can be used formatively to improve the assignment.
  4. Use the rubric as a summative assessment tool to evaluate student work and provide transparency in grading and feedback. This can help students understand the rationale for their assignment’s assessment and grade.

The following rubric workbook has compiled important information for creating and using rubrics in your course:

Next Steps

When you are done choosing or creating rubrics continue:

or move on to: