What is a Rubric?

A rubric is simply a pre-established scoring guide that describes levels of performance or understanding. Rubrics are used for assessing/evaluating student work and for providing feedback to the student and the instructor. Rubrics can take on different forms and levels of complexity, can be applied to a wide variety of subject areas and used in association with various assessments. Activities such as papers/assignments, lab reports, oral presentations, class participation and discussions, group work participation and role playing can all be assessed using rubrics.

What are the advantages of using a Rubric?

When a rubric is well defined it:

  • helps the instructor to assess qualities of learning using specified criteria and benchmarks
  • enables the instructor to better communicate his/her expected standards of learning
  • ensures more objective and consistent assessment of student work
  • provides the instructor with information on the effectiveness of his/her instruction

When a rubric is shared with the students it:

  • assists students in interpreting and anticipating the instructor’s expected levels of performance
  • enables students to identify their own level of performance and areas in need of improvement
  • helps to improve communication between teachers and students.

What are the different types of Rubrics?

There are generic rubrics that are used for multiple tasks and disciplines (such as the Critical Thinking Rubric developed by the Gen Ed Committee) as well as specific rubrics that are only appropriate for a specified task or discipline. Each of these can have holistic or analytic-trait scoring guidelines.

Holistic rubrics provide a single score for overall work. A holistic rubric then serves as a guide to determine the overall rating such as excellent/satisfactory/ unsatisfactory, or whatever levels have been agreed upon.

Analytic-trait rubrics identify primary traits for a given assignment and yield a separate score for each. When taken together, the specific components make up the completed assessment. The primary traits are rated on some scale—as simple as from levels 1 to 4, or more descriptive such as excellent/satisfactory/poor/unsatisfactory.

What are the characteristics of a well-defined rubric?

According to the PALS Guide: Rubrics and Scoring website well written rubrics are:

  • continuous - preserving an equivalent degree of difference from score point to score point
  • parallel - employing similar terms for describing the levels of performance
  • coherent - focusing on the specified outcome(s) to be assessed
  • highly - Descriptive using language that clearly communicates the performance expectations
  • valid - measuring what it is designed to measure
  • reliable - producing similar ratings of student performance when the assessment is repeated or used by multiple instructors

Where do you find an appropriate Rubric?

It is generally better to develop your own rubric, and there are various approaches for doing so. However, examining existing models can be helpful and developed rubrics can be adapted to instructional needs. Scoring will be easier if the rubric fits on one side of a sheet of paper. Examples of rubrics are provided at the end of this document, along with websites containing those and additional samples.

Steps in Rubric Development

  1. Determine the learning outcome(s) that will be assessed.
  2. Select a reasonable number (4 to 8) of the most important dimensions of the task. For example, if the outcome focuses on students being able to deliver an oral presentation, then possible dimensions may include voice projection, engaging the audience, pronunciation, written presentation, and organization.
  3. Determine the scale that will be used. Quantitative descriptors (such as 4 or 6 points) are particularly useful when the assessment will be incorporated into a numerical grade. If student feedback is the primary focus, then qualitative descriptive words may be more useful.
  4. Identify benchmarks for each level of each dimension. Start by describing the aspects of a “superb example for each dimension then work down through the scale. Be sure to incorporate the characteristics of a well-defined rubric. (#4 above)
  5. Pilot the instrument, comparing student work to the rubric.
  6. Reexamine the rubric and revise the level of detail, scale, etc., if necessary. Rescore the student work against the revised rubric.