A rubric is an assessment tool that displays criteria for different levels of quality, against which student work can be evaluated. Rubrics are flexible and can be adapted to fit almost any type of learning product (essays, presentations, laboratory work, portfolios, etc.). Rubrics work best when judgments of quality are determined by multiple factors. For example, a rubric can help you to assess both the content and composition of an essay.

You may already be familiar with the advantages of using rubrics to evaluate students’ coursework. But did you know that there are many advantages to using rubrics at the program level as well?

With regards to the assessment of program-level learning outcomes, rubrics can be used to:

  • Reduce subjective bias from assessments: Rubrics increase the objectivity of assessment by clearly stating the criteria for judgment;
  • Increase consistency of multiple assessors: This is particularly important for assessment made by committee;
  • Evaluate multiple types of evidence at once;
  • Communicate to students how they will achieve the learning outcomes of the program.

Rubric Elements

All rubrics are composed of the same three elements: The levels (or scale) are used to differentiate between low, medium and high quality evaluations. Each level is accompanied by a criterion, or set of criteria, that specifies what is needed to reach that level of quality. Finally, a descriptor labels or defines each level.

Holistic vs. Analytic Rubrics

Holistic rubrics consist of a single scoring scheme and are used evaluate student performance in its entirety. The puppet show script rubric above is an example of a holistic rubric.

Analytic rubrics consist of multiple scoring schemes and are used to evaluate student performance on multiple dimensions. Below is an example of rubric used to evaluate an art portfolio on four different dimensions.

How to Create a Scoring Rubric

Adapted from Steps to Creating a Scoring Rubric, published by the Carleton Educational Development Centre.

Step 1: Decide on the 3-6 most important criteria for a particular learning outcome. For example, clarity of thought is a key criterion for communication skills.

Step 2: Once you have selected the most important set of criteria, consider the specific elements you would want to include in your description of each level of performance. In the communication skills example, as you describe the quality of each level of performance for clarity of thought, you might refer to several items: how easily understood the arguments were, whether transitions between points were smooth and effective, whether all terms have been explained, etc.

Step 3: Decide how many levels of performance you want to include. Ideally, there should be either 3 or 4 levels of performance. Using fewer than three levels means losing specificity and nuance in the descriptions. Yet, using more than four levels makes it difficult to write meaningful descriptors.

Step 4: Decide on the weight you want to give to each criteria and each level of performance. For example, a poor performance in a criteria graded out of four might get one mark (or a D) while an exemplary performance might get four marks (or an A).

Step 5: Create a table which includes the list of criteria in the left hand column, then add another three or four columns depending on how many levels of performance you have chosen. Across the top of the table, you can label each column with a name (i.e., the descriptor) such as:: beginner, emergent, adequate, exemplary. For each criterion, assign a number and enter a description of the attributes describing each level of skill.

Once you have finished filling in the descriptions in each square in the table, you have a rubric!

More examples of rubrics can be found at the R Campus Rubric Gallery.

References and Resources

Moskal, Barbara M. (2000). Scoring rubrics: what, when and how?. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(3). Retrieved October 1, 2013 from https://scholarworks.umass.edu/pare/vol7/iss1/3.

Developing Rubrics for Assessment. (n.d.). Office of Assessment, University of Nebraska Kearney.

Scoring Rubrics (n.d.) Teaching Tip Series. Educational Development Centre, Carleton University.