Instructors have many tasks to perform during the semester, including grading assignments and assessments. Feedback on performance is a critical factor in helping students improve and succeed. Grading rubrics can provide more consistent feedback for students and create efficiency for the instructor/grader.
A rubric is a scoring tool that identifies the different criteria relevant to an assignment, assessment, or learning outcome and states the possible levels of achievement in a specific, clear, and objective way. Use rubrics to assess project-based student work, including essays, group projects, creative endeavors, and oral presentations. Rubrics are helpful for instructors because they can help them communicate expectations to students and assess student work fairly and efficiently. Finally, rubrics can provide students with informative feedback on their strengths and weaknesses so that they can reflect on their performance and work on areas that need improvement.
How to Get Started
Step 1: Define the Purpose
The first step in the rubric-creation process is to define the purpose of the assignment or assessment for which you are creating a rubric. To do this, consider the following questions:
- What is the assignment?
- Does the assignment break down into different or smaller tasks?
- Are these tasks equally important as the main assignment?
- What are the learning objectives for the assignment?
- What do you want students to demonstrate through the completion of this assignment?
- What would an excellent assignment look like?
- How would you describe an acceptable assignment?
- How would you describe an assignment that falls below expectations?
- What kind of feedback do you want to give students for their work?
- Do you want/need to give them a grade? If so, do you want to give them a single overall grade or detailed feedback based on a variety of criteria?
- Do you want to give students specific feedback that will help them improve their future work?
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Rubric You Will Use
Types of rubrics: holistic, analytic/descriptive, single-point
Holistic Rubric. A holistic rubric consists of a single scale with all the criteria to be included in the evaluation (such as clarity, organization, mechanics, etc.) being considered together. With a holistic rubric, the rater or grader assigns a single score (usually on a 1-4 or 1-6 point scale) based on an overall judgment of the student’s work. The rater matches an entire piece of student work to a single description on the scale.
Advantages of holistic rubrics:
- Place an emphasis on what learners can demonstrate rather than what they cannot
- Save time by minimizing the number of decisions to be made
- Can be used consistently across raters, provided they have all been trained
Disadvantages of holistic rubrics:
- Do not provide specific feedback for improvement
- Can be difficult to choose a score when a student’s work is at varying levels across the criteria
- Criteria cannot be weighted
Analytic/Descriptive Rubric. An analytic rubric resembles a grid with the criteria for an assignment listed in the left 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.
Advantages of analytic rubrics:
- Provide feedback on areas of strength or weakness
- Each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance
Disadvantages of analytic rubrics:
- More time-consuming to create and use than a holistic rubric
- May not be used consistently across raters unless the rubrics are well defined
- May limit personalized feedback to help students improve
Single-Point Rubric. Similar to an analytic/descriptive rubric in that it breaks down the components of an assignment into different criteria. The detailed performance descriptors are only for the level of proficiency. Feedback space is provided for instructors to give individualized comments to help students improve and/or show where they excelled beyond the proficiency descriptors.
Advantages of single-point rubrics:
- Easier to create than an analytic/descriptive rubric
- More likely that students will read the descriptors
- Areas of concern and excellence are open-ended removes a focus on the grade/points
- May increase student creativity in project-based assignments
Disadvantages of analytic rubrics:
- Requires more work for instructors writing feedback
Step 3: Define the Criteria
Ask yourself: What knowledge and skills are required for the assignment/assessment? Make a list of these, group and label them, and eliminate any that are not critical.
Helpful strategies for defining grading criteria:
- Review the learning objectives for the course; use the assignment prompt, existing grading checklists, peer response sheets, comments on previous work, past examples of student work, etc.
- Try describing A/B/C work.
- Consider “sentence starters” with verbs describing student performance from Bloom’s Taxonomy or other terms to indicate various levels of performance, i.e., presence to absence, complete to incomplete, many to some to none, major to minor, consistent to inconsistent, always to usually to sometimes to rarely
- Collaborate with co-instructors, teaching assistants, and other colleagues
- Brainstorm and discuss with students
- Consider the effectiveness of the criteria:
- Can they be observed and measured?
- Are they important and essential?
- Are they distinct from other criteria?
- Are they phrased in precise, unambiguous language?
- Revise the criteria as needed
- Consider how you will weigh them in relation to each other
Step 4: Design the Rating Scale
Most ratings scales include between 3 and 5 levels. Consider the following questions:
- Given what students are able to demonstrate in this assignment/assessment, what are the possible levels of achievement?
- Will you use numbers or descriptive labels for these levels?
- If you choose descriptive labels, what labels are most appropriate? Will you assign a number to those labels?
- In what order will you list these levels — from lowest to highest or vice versa?
Step 5: Write Descriptions for Each Level of the Rating Scale
Create statements of expected performance at each level of the rubric. For an analytic rubric, do this for each particular criterion of the rubric. These descriptions help students understand your expectations and their performance in regard to those expectations.
Start with the top/exemplary work category –what does it look like when a student has achieved excellence in each category? Then look at the “bottom” category –what does it look like when students have not achieved the learning goals in any way? Then add the categories in between.
Also, take into consideration that well-written descriptions:
- Describe observable and measurable behavior
- Use parallel language across the scale
- Indicate the degree to which the standards are met
Step 6: Create your Rubric
- Develop the criteria, rating scale, and descriptions for each level of the rating scale into a rubric
- Include the assignment at the top of the rubric, space permitting
- For reading and grading ease, limit the rubric to a single page, if possible
- Consider the effectiveness of your rubric and revise accordingly
- Create your rubric in a table or spreadsheet in Word, Google Docs, Sheets, etc., and then transfer it by typing it into Moodle. You can also use online tools to create the rubric, but you will still have to type the criteria, indicators, levels, etc., into Moodle. Rubric creators: Rubistar, iRubric
Step 7: Pilot-test your Rubric
Prior to implementing your rubric on a live course, obtain feedback from:
- Teacher Assistants
Also, try out your new rubric on a sample of student work. After you pilot-test your rubric, analyze the results to consider its effectiveness and revise accordingly.
- Use Parallel Language. Make sure that the language from column to column is similar and that syntax and wording correspond. Of course, the words will change for each section or assignment, as will the expectations, but in terms of readability, make sure that the rubric can be easily read from left to right or vice versa. In addition, if you have an indicator described in one category, it will need to be described in the next category, whether it is about “having included” or “not having included” something. This is all about clarity and transparency to students.
- Use Student-Friendly Language. If students can’t understand the rubric, it will not be useful for guiding instruction, reflection, and assessment. If you want students to engage in using the rubric, they have to understand it. Make sure the language is learning-level appropriate. If you use academic language or concepts, you will need to teach those concepts.
- Use the Rubric with Your Students. You have to use the rubric with the students. It means nothing to them if you don’t. For students to find the rubric useful in terms of their learning, they must see a reason for using it. Students should understand that the rubric is there to help them learn, reflect, and self-assess. If students use a rubric, they will understand the expectations and their relevance to learning.
- Don’t Use Too Many Columns. The rubric needs to be comprehensible and organized. Pick the right amount of columns so that the criteria flow logically and naturally across levels.
- Common Rubrics and Templates are Awesome. Avoid rubric fatigue, as in creating rubrics to the point where you just can’t do it anymore. This can be done with common rubrics that students see across multiple classroom activities and through creating templates that you can alter slightly as needed. Design those templates for learning targets or similar performance tasks in your classroom. It’s easy to change these types of rubrics later. Figure out your common practices and create a single rubric your team can use.
- Rely on Descriptive Language. The most effective descriptions are those that use specific descriptions. This means avoiding words like “good” and “excellent.” At the same time, don’t rely on numbers, such as a number of resources, as your crutch. Instead of saying, “find excellent sources” or “use three sources,” focus your rubric language on the quality use of whatever sources students find and on the best possible way of aligning that data to the work. It isn’t about the number of sources, and “excellent” is too vague for students. Be specific and descriptive.
Example of an analytic rubric for a final paper
|Needs Improvement (1)||Developing (2)||Sufficient (3)||Above Average (4)|
|Clarity (Thesis supported by relevant information and ideas)||The purpose of the student work is not well-defined. Central ideas are not focused to support the thesis. Thoughts appear disconnected.||The central purpose of the student work is identified. Ideas are generally focused in a way that supports the thesis.||The central purpose of the student work is clear and ideas are almost always focused in a way that supports the thesis. Relevant details illustrate the author’s ideas.||The central purpose of the student work is clear and supporting ideas always are always well-focused. Details are relevant, enrich the work.|
|Organization (Sequencing of elements/ ideas)||Information and ideas are poorly sequenced (the author jumps around). The audience has difficulty following the thread of thought.||Information and ideas are presented in an order that the audience can follow with minimum difficulty.||Information and ideas are presented in a logical sequence which is followed by the reader with little or no difficulty.||Information and ideas are presented in a logical sequence which flows naturally and is engaging to the audience.|
|Mechanics (Correctness of grammar and spelling)||There are five or more misspellings and/or systematic grammatical errors per page or eight or more in the entire document. The readability of the work is seriously hampered by errors.||There are no more than four misspellings and/or systematic grammatical errors per page or six or more in the entire document. Errors distract from the work.||There are no more than three misspellings and/or grammatical errors per page and no more than five in the entire document. The readability of the work is minimally interrupted by errors.||There are no more than two misspelled words or grammatical errors in the document.|
Example of a holistic rubric for a final paper
|Articulating thoughts through written communication— final paper.
- Single Point Rubric Template (variation)
- Analytic Rubric Template make a copy to edit
- A Rubric for Rubrics
- Bank of Online Discussion Rubrics in different formats
- Mathematical Presentations Descriptive Rubric
- Math Proof Assessment Rubric
- Kansas State Sample Rubrics
- Design Single Point Rubric
Moodle How-To Guides
Technology Tools: Rubrics in Moodle
Supplemental Tools with Rubrics in Moodle
- DELTA – Rubrics: Making Assignments Easier for You and Your Students (2/1/2022)
- DePaul University (n.d.). Rubrics. Retrieved from http://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/feedback-grading/rubrics/Pages/default.aspx
- Gonzalez, J. (2014). Know your terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics. Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/holistic-analytic-single-point-rubrics/
- Goodrich, H. (1996). Understanding rubrics. Teaching for Authentic Student Performance, 54 (4), 14-17. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec96/vol54/num04/Understanding-Rubrics.aspx
- Miller, A. (2012). Tame the beast: tips for designing and using rubrics. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/designing-using-rubrics-andrew-miller
- Ragupathi, K., Lee, A. (2020). Beyond Fairness and Consistency in Grading: The Role of Rubrics in Higher Education. In: Sanger, C., Gleason, N. (eds) Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1628-3_3