Using rubrics

A rubric is a type of scoring guide that assesses and articulates specific components and expectations for an assignment. Rubrics can be used for a variety of assignments: research papers, group projects, portfolios, and presentations.  

Why use rubrics? 

Rubrics help instructors: 

  • Assess assignments consistently from student-to-student. 
  • Save time in grading, both short-term and long-term. 
  • Give timely, effective feedback and promote student learning in a sustainable way. 
  • Clarify expectations and components of an assignment for both students and course teaching assistants (TAs). 
  • Refine teaching methods by evaluating rubric results. 

Rubrics help students: 

  • Understand expectations and components of an assignment. 
  • Become more aware of their learning process and progress. 
  • Improve work through timely and detailed feedback. 

Considerations for using rubrics 

When developing rubrics consider the following:

  • Although it takes time to build a rubric, time will be saved in the long run as grading and providing feedback on student work will become more streamlined.  
  • A rubric can be a fillable pdf that can easily be emailed to students. 
  • Rubrics are most often used to grade written assignments, but they have many other uses: 
    • They can be used for oral presentations. 
    • They are a great tool to evaluate teamwork and individual contribution to group tasks. 
    • Rubrics facilitate peer-review by setting evaluation standards. Have students use the rubric to provide peer assessment on various drafts. 
    • Students can use them for self-assessment to improve personal performance and learning. Encourage students to use the rubrics to assess their own work. 
    • Motivate students to improve their work by using rubric feedback to resubmit their work incorporating the feedback. 

Getting Started with Rubrics 

  • Start small by creating one rubric for one assignment in a semester.  
  • Ask colleagues if they have developed rubrics for similar assignments or adapt rubrics that are available online. For example, the AACU has rubrics for topics such as written and oral communication, critical thinking, and creative thinking. RubiStar helps you to develop your rubric based on templates.  
  • Examine an assignment for your course. Outline the elements or critical attributes to be evaluated (these attributes must be objectively measurable). 
  • Create an evaluative range for performance quality under each element; for instance, “excellent,” “good,” “unsatisfactory.” 
  • Add descriptors that qualify each level of performance: 
    • Avoid using subjective or vague criteria such as “interesting” or “creative.” Instead, outline objective indicators that would fall under these categories. 
    • The criteria must clearly differentiate one performance level from another. 
    • Assign a numerical scale to each level. 
  • Give a draft of the rubric to your colleagues and/or TAs for feedback. 
  • Train students to use your rubric and solicit feedback. This will help you judge whether the rubric is clear to them and will identify any weaknesses. 
  • Rework the rubric based on the feedback.