What is a rubric? Rubrics assist the instructor in making explicit, objective, and consistent the criteria for performance that otherwise would be implicit, subjective, and inconsistent if only a single letter grade were used as an indicator of performance. Rubrics delineate what knowledge, content, skills, and behaviors indicate various levels of learning or mastery. Ideally, “grading” rubrics are shared with students before an exam, presentation, writing project, or other assessment activity. Awareness of what they are expected to learn helps students organize their work, encourages self-reflection about how and what they are learning, and allows opportunities for self-assessment during the learning process.

What are some of the criteria that may be used within a rubric to evaluate student work? Criteria can include sophistication, organization, grammar and style, competence, accuracy, synthesis, analysis, and expressiveness, among others.

What are the basic types of rubrics?

The TLT Group (new window), via Penn State University’s Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence, clarifies the different types of rubrics in the following chart:

TypesPurpose/Distinction*Focal UseView Samples
HolisticTo provide a single score based on an overall impression of learner achievement on a task.To provide overall evaluation guidelines that clarify how grades relate to performance/achievement, such as in course grades.Course grading rubricPresentation Rubric
AnalyticTo provide specific feedback along several dimensions.To break assignments or scores down into separate components for grading (description, analysis, grammar, references, etc.).Practicum Portfolio Rubric/Scoring Sheet**
GeneralTo contain criteria that are general across tasks.Designed to provide general guidance as to expectations, such as for grading of written assignments.Course grading rubric/Position Paper Scoring/Feedback Sheet**
Task-specificAre unique to a task/assignment.Designed to provide detailed guidance regarding a specific assignment or task.Practicum Portfolio Rubric/Research Paper Scoring/Feedback Sheet

*For more information, please see the Schreyer Institute’s The Basics of Rubrics.

The TLT Group (new window) also lists several steps for creating an assessment rubric:

  1. Identify the type and purpose of the rubric. Consider what you want to assess/evaluate and why (see matrix in the link above).
  2. Identify distinct criteria to be evaluated. Develop/reference the existing description of the course/assignment/activity and pull your criteria directly from your objectives/expectations. Make sure the distinction between the assessment criteria are clear.
  3. Determine your levels of assessment. Identify your range and scoring scales. Are they linked to simple numeric base scores? Percentages? Grades or GPAs?
  4. Describe each level for each of the criteria, clearly differentiating between them. For each criteria, differentiate clearly between the levels of expectation. Whether holistically or specifically, there should be no question as to where a product/performance would fall along the continuum of levels. (Hint: Start at the bottom (unacceptable) and top (mastery) levels and work your way “in.”)
  5. Involve learners in the development and effective use of the rubric. Whether it’s the first time you’re using a particular rubric or the 100th time, learner engagement in the initial design or ongoing development of the assessment rubric helps to increase students’ knowledge of expectations and make them explicitly aware of what and how they are learning.
  6. Pre-test and re-test your rubric. A valid and reliable rubric generally takes time to develop. Each use with a new group of learners–or a colleague–provides an opportunity to tweak and enhance the original rubric.