1. What Are Rubrics and Why Use Them
  2. Creating a Holistic Rubric
  3. Creating an Analytic Rubric
  4. Tips for Creating a Scoring Rubric
  5. ePortfolio Grading Rubrics
  6. Helpful Links

Rubrics are marking guides for subjective evaluations (e.g. written assignments, presentations) that allow you to evaluate the quality of students’ performance quickly, consistently, and clearly.   

Rubrics also provide feedback to students about the strengths and weaknesses of their performance in relation to learning outcomes. Ideally, instructors would provide a rubric to students and teaching assistants alongside the assignment description or instructions, or at least before the assignment is due. Rubrics can be constructed for classes in any discipline and for different types of assignment. 

What Are Rubrics and Why Use Them

A rubric is a visual marking guide with two main elements:  

  1. Grade levels for the assignment (e.g. letter grade, percentage, numerical); and 
  2. Corresponding performance descriptors for each grade level. 

What these elements look like depends on the type of rubric. There are two common types of rubrics: holistic rubrics and analytic rubrics. 

holistic rubric or marking guide (see the table below) includes a series of descriptors of general performance categories, where a grade is assigned to each category according to an established grading scale (e.g. numerical or letter grade). Holistic rubrics do not provide detailed feedback to students or a high level of accuracy in grading but are quick and easy to make. 

Category Description Grade between 0-10
Clarity Communicates ideas in a way that is clear and concise.  /10
Analysis of Experience Provides in-depth interpretation and insight into experience. Integrates multiple alternative viewpoints and contextualizes experience.  /10
Reflection on Learning Process Analyzes learning experience to provide in-depth insight into how learning occurred and how it transformed previous knowledge.  /10
Total (out of 30): 

By contrast, aanalytic rubric (see table below) breaks down general performance categories by sub-skill, where each sub-skill is graded according to an established grading scale with descriptors for each grade level. Analytical rubrics are more time-consuming to make but provide more detailed feedback to students and greater accuracy in grading, especially for multiple graders and large volumes of assignments. 

Not Attempted (0) Beginning (1) Developing (2) Competent (3) Exemplary (4)
Reflective Thinking Does not describe experience or provide insight or interpretation. Describes experience. Describes experience and provides limited insight and interpretation. Moves beyond simple description of the experience to provide insight and Moves beyond simple description of the experience to provide in-depth insight and interpretation. Integrates multiple alternative viewpoints and contextualizes experience.
Creative Thinking Does not acknowledge alternative perspectives. Somewhat acknowledges alternate perspectives. Acknowledges alternate and divergent perspectives. Discusses and questions alternate and divergent perspectives. Synthesizes alternate and divergent perspectives and ideas fully to create new knowledge.
Organization Does not include enough content to communicate ideas. Communicates ideas in a way that is unclear and wordy. Communicates ideas in a way that is sometimes unclear and wordy. Communicates ideas in a way that is mostly clear and concise. Communicates ideas in a way that is clear and concise.
Professionalism  Always conveys meaning unclearly due to many grammar and/or spelling errors. Does not include any citations or bibliography. Often conveys meaning unclearly due to many grammar and/or spelling errors. Does not include complete citations or bibliography. Sometimes conveys meaning unclearly due to grammatical or spelling errors. Has many citation and bibliographic errors. Often conveys meaning clearly, with few grammatical or spelling errors. Has few citation and bibliographic errors. Always conveys meaning clearly, with no grammatical or spelling errors. Has no citation or bibliographic errors.
Comments:  Total: 

Both types of rubrics offer many advantages to you, your TAs, and your students: 

  • Rubrics make for faster and more consistent grading since the grading criteria are clearly defined fields that just need to be selected to indicate level of performance. 
  • Rubrics by nature provide instant feedback to your students, which is not only good for your students, but also saves you/your TAs time because you do not need to write the same comments over and over.
  • The visual  representation of grades provided by a rubric makes it easier for some students to understand and accept an assigned mark. 

Creating a Holistic Rubric

  1. Decide on the key performance criteria for the particular assignment. Aim for three to six criteria per assignment. For example, critical thinking might be a key criterion for a persuasive essay. 
  2. Decide on the grading scale for the criteria (e.g. numerical or letter grade). Consider the relative weighting of each criterion (e.g. spelling and grammar might be weighted less in the overall grade than critical thinking in the example of a persuasive essay). 

You can find instructions on building a rubric in Brightspace on the Carleton Brightspace support site.

Creating an Analytic Rubric

  1. Decide on the key performance criteria for the particular assignment. Aim for three to six criteria per assignment. For example, presentation skills might be a key criterion in an oral presentation.
  2. Once you have selected the criteria, identify the specific sub-skills that describe the performance of the criteria. In the presentation skills example, you might refer to such sub-skills as how audible the presenters were, whether they pronounced technical terms correctly, whether they explained all terms, whether they made eye-contact with their audience, and so on. 
  3. Decide how many levels of performance you want to include. Aim for three to five levels. Fewer than three levels can lose specificity and nuance. More than five levels can make it difficult to distinguish between levels and write meaningful descriptors. 
  4. Decide on the weighting of each criteria and each level of performance. Consider the specific grade level or range that will be attributed to each level. For example, poor performance in an item graded out of four might get one out of four for a grade of 25% (F), while an exemplary performance might get four out of four or a grade of 100% (A+)In general, it is advisable to set your lowest level for each criterion at 0 marks earned: this would be for those cases where students’ work simply doesn’t address a specific criterion. For example: if a criterion for your papers is that students document engagement with their sources following this or that specific citation style, but the paper submitted does not engage with any sources and so has no references page or other attempts at documentation, a grade of 0 in that criterion is probably more appropriate. 
  5. Create a table that includes the list of criteria in the lefthand column and another three to five columns depending on how many levels of performance you have chosen. Label each column header with a relevant name (e.g. beginner, emergent, adequate, exemplary; not attempted or unsatisfactory, satisfactory, good, excellent; etc.). For each criterion, assign a grade level and enter a descriptor for each performance levelA good framework for performance level descriptors is to refer to frequency or consistency of performance (i.e., not at all, rarely/sometimes/inconsistently, usually/often, always/consistently). 

In the oral presentation example, an exemplary performance level might be described as follows: voice clear and audible, pronounced all technical terms correctly, clearly and correctly defined all terms, consistently made eye contact with audience throughout presentation. An adequate level might be described as follows: voice mostly clear and audible, pronounced one or two technical terms incorrectly, defined most terms correctly, did not always maintain eye contact. 

Keep in mind that the descriptors will provide meaningful feedback and guidance for your students, so aim to be clear and concise. 

You can find instructions on building a rubric in Brightspace on the Brightspace instructor support site.

Tips for Creating a Scoring Rubric

  • Whenever possible, look at examples of rubricsAsk your colleagues and/or search for examples online. 
  • Start with the highest level of performance for each criterion. This is usually easiest to describe and provides you a good starting point for being able to imagine a slightly less exemplary performance.
  • Keep your rubric as simple as possible – too much detail is overwhelming for you, your TAs, and your students.
  • Try to make your criteria and descriptors general enough that students can transfer their learning to the next assignment (or one for another class) but specific enough to provide meaningful feedback for the particular assignment.
  • Avoid relative terms. In other words, do not describe a level of performance in comparison to another. For example, if a high level of performance includes the descriptor “no grammatical errors,” the lower levels should be described as “few/some/many grammatical errors, not “fewer/more grammatical errors”. Each student should understand their own level of performance against the criteria, not against other students. 

ePortfolio Grading Rubrics

Carleton’s ePortfolio Faculty Learning Community has designed rubrics to help instructors assess course-level undergraduate ePortfolio assignments. The group is sharing these rubrics as an open educational resource so that other instructors can adapt and use them in their own courses.

You can change, remove or add language within the rubrics or use language from the rubrics to help create your assignment descriptions. You have permission from the authors to use content from the rubrics however you see fit for your ePortfolio assignment. Learn more about the rubrics here.

Helpful Links

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