Assessment at Carleton

Assessment is one of the most challenging tasks that instructors perform, and students understandably are very concerned about their grades, so not surprisingly, there are many things to be aware of on the subject. On this page, you will find information about many assessment-related subjects, including:

For more information on any of these topics, click the hyperlink or continue scrolling below.

Examinations and Grading Regulations

Detailed information about Carleton’s course evaluation policy is available in section 5 (Regulations) of the undergraduate and graduate calendars. Of note is Carleton’s early feedback guideline. Wherever possible, and especially in first- and second-year courses, instructors are urged to include in the course schedule academic work that will be assigned, evaluated, and returned prior to the 25th teaching day of each term. All instructors are urged to do this prior to the 40th teaching day of each term. 

Course outlines should clearly indicate when the first graded piece of work will be returned to students. In cases where a course does not lend itself to early feedback, this should be clearly noted on the course outline. 

For more information regarding exams, visit Scheduling and Examinations Services’ “Examinations Memo for Fall 2020.”

Online Exams 

Because post-March 2020 courses will be delivered entirely online, all in-term exams (e.g. midterms and quizzes) will need to be delivered online or replaced by alternative types of assessment. Alternative assessments can include take-home assignments, ePortfolios, presentations, and so on. You can find suggestions for designing alternative assessments here

The following options are now available for examinations: 

  • Fixed Exam: The exam occurs online, in Brightspace, and has a set start and end time as displayed on the schedule—e.g. the traditional three-hour exam. 
  • Fixed within Range Exam: The period of time students have to write the exam is shorter than the period of time that the exam is open—e.g. students are given a threeday period to write the exam, but the exam is only three hours in duration. 
  • Range Exam: The exam must be completed within a range of time and will be open for the entire range of time as displayed on the schedule. These are take-home exams that deviate from the practice of being distributed on the last day of the class, and due the last day of the exam period. 

Please note that take-home (range) exams that deviate from the normative practice will be scheduled by Scheduling and Exam Services (SES), but course instructors will be able to indicate the window required (e.g. students have X days to complete the exam). SES will assign the specific date and time based on the specifications.  

Your departmental administrator is responsible for communicating details about exam dates and deadlines. For all scheduled exams, instructors will need to provide SES with a copy and/or a link to the item in Brightspace itself (i.e., a Quiz or Assignment) by the indicated deadline. 

Online Exam Advice 

For post-March 2020 courses, it is advisable to deliver Fixed exams during the course’s assigned day and time to ensure students are available, regardless of whether the course is offered synchronously, asynchronously, or in a blended format. Alternatively, consider having an extended window to complete the exam (I.e., a Fixed within Range Exam). 

You are responsible for a number of tasks when it comes to exams, including:  

  • Creating the exam (except in exceptional circumstances, such as if you are teaching one of several sections of the same course and the in-term exams are pre-determined). 
  • Making the exam available to students at the designated time (e.g., in Brightspace). 
  • Ensuring the exam does not exceed the time allotted for the class. 
  • Making any special accommodations students may require (e.g. time extension, alternate format), such as for disabilities or technical limitations. 
  • Including a statement in the exam about academic integrity and rules for the assessment (e.g. open book). Avoid statements about penalties; instead, commit to following up on academic misconduct out of respect for all students. 
  • Setting a policy and procedure for missed exams. This policy should be clearly written in the course outline. It is a good idea to draft an alternate make-up exam with a clear policy for what happens if both exams are missed. Consult this resource for strategies to rethink your assessment.
  • Providing students the opportunity to review their exams so they can identify strengths and weaknesses in their understanding and performance. For example, you can return the exams to students, review them together in a private session, and/or dedicate class time to a whole-class review. 

Once all students have submitted their exam, grades should be released in Brightspace. This protects your students’ privacy as per the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). Never post student numbers, names, and/or grades in any public way. Post only grades for individual assignments: the default setting for the final grade column is “hidden” and it should be left as is.

There are a number of factors you should consider when setting up your online exam: 

  • Prior to exam day (and ideally earlier), clearly communicate to your students what to expect from the exam. For example, how long they will have to complete the exam, how many and what type of questions are included, and so on. 
  • Provide different versions of the exam to each student by shuffling the exam questions/answers and pulling questions from a question bank. For information on these subjects, consult the Brightspace support site for instructors.
  • Consider alternative assessment methods. For ideas, consult the Options for Online Assessment page.

The turn-around time for submitting final grades is 10 calendar days from the date of the exam. You can find the deadlines for your courses in Carleton Central under “E-Grades.” Since all exams must now be held online, using (some) automatically graded multiple-choice questions may help you with quicker grading. 

Accommodations for PMC students need to be considered. The PMC, working with SES, normally handles arrangements for accommodations for PMC students. If needed, for online time-restricted exams, durations can be adjusted easily for individual students.  

Students who do not attempt their scheduled final exam should be referred to the Registrar’s Office to apply for a deferral. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for grading the deferred exam and will be given the option to set a new exam. If a student knows ahead of time that they cannot make the final exam and you are satisfied that their reason is valid (if unsure, check with your chair/director), you can re-schedule it to occur before the formally scheduled exam date.   

Departments usually allow students to review their final exam up to a year after the course ends. For that reason, do not delete past Brightspace courses for at least a year after they have ended in the event that your department chair requests access to the exams. 

Take-Home (Range) Exams 

Take-home exams are generally assigned on or before the last day of classes and are due on the last day of the official examination period. Take-home exams that do not follow this normal practice (i.e., Range exams) must be formally scheduled by Scheduling and Exam Services and are subject to overload rules, as per Reg 4.1 of the undergraduate calendar.

Clear guidelines and expectations about take-home exams must be communicated to students (e.g. word limits, guidelines about consultation with each other, and how much external material they are expected to use). 

Deferred Term Work

Reg. 4.4 of the undergraduate calendar indicates that if a student is unable to complete a significant term assignment late in the term because of illness or other circumstances beyond their control, it may be necessary to delay the due date beyond the deadline for reporting final grades. In this case, the student may contact their instructor and request an alternate arrangement. 


Informal/Formal Appeal of Grades

Wherever possible, both during the term and after, concerns about the grading of student work should be settled informally between the student and the instructor. As a result of this informal appeal process, the original grade may be raised, lowered or left unchanged.

If the issue cannot be settled informally, the student may submit a formal appeal of grade through the Registrar’s Office. For details, please see Reg. 3.3.4 of the undergraduate calendar.

Posting Grades

You may use Brightspace to post your course work grades. For final grades, you must use E-Grades (accessible through Carleton Central). Training on E-Grades is available through the Registrar’s Office at select times of the year. Find out more about entering grades here. More information about Brightspace and E-Grades can be found in the Computing for Instructors section of this website.

Final Grade Standards

Pass/Fail Standards

Before you set your tests/exams and grade assignments in your course, it is best to ask your chair or director and a few faculty members what the grading and distribution standards in your academic unit are. Whether you agree with the standards or not (philosophically or practically), it is better to know about these standards before you are called by the dean’s office to explain your grading.

Carleton’s Grading System

Found in Reg. 5.4 of the undergraduate calendar, the following is the letter and 12-point grade system used at Carleton. Standing in courses will be shown by alphabetical grades.

A+ 12
A 11
A- 10
B+ 9
B 8
B- 7
C+ 6
C 5
C- 4
D+ 3
D 2
D- 1
F 0

Number to Letter Grade Transfer

You determine the grades in your course, but they are subject to approval and adjustment by your chair/director and faculty dean. All final grades at Carleton are letter grades. The most fair approach to grading is to record term work as number grades, calculate final grades, and then translate those numbers to letter grades before submitting them.

The following table indicates conversion from percentage grades to letter grades.

A+ 90-100
A 85-89
A- 80-84
B+ 77-79
B 73-76
B- 70-72
C+ 67-69
C 63-66
C- 60-62
D+ 57-59
D 53-56
D- 50-52
F 0-49

Grade Adjustments

Systematically adjusting student grades on course work or final grades is discouraged in some faculties and endorsed in others. If you are going to systematically adjust grades, you must indicate this in your course outline. You may be asked to make adjustments to final grades if your chair/director or dean feel the distribution signals a problem (e.g. assessment was too hard or too easy). Discuss the situation openly with your chair/director. If you have a reason for a grade adjustment, communicate it. Discuss a possible solution and be sure you understand how grades will be adjusted.

Assignment Prompts: What do you really mean?

The following tips are to help you choose assignment task descriptors that accurately reflect what you’re asking students to do. When you introduce the assignment instructions to your students, it may be useful to review the task description to make sure students understand exactly what is expected of them. A rubric will help provide further clarification as well as consistency in grading and feedback to students. For more information, see the section on rubrics below.

Assignment Prompts

  • Identification terms: cite, define, enumerate, give, identify, indicate, list, mention, name, state
  • Description terms: describe, discuss, review, summarize, diagram, illustrate, sketch, develop, outline, trace
  • Relation terms: analyze, compare, contrast, differentiate, distinguish, relate
  • Demonstration terms: demonstrate, explain why, justify, prove, show, support
  • Evaluation terms: assess, comment, criticize, evaluate, interpret, propose

What Do You Really Mean?

  • Analyze: Divide a complex whole into its parts or elements, laying bare parts or pieces for individual scrutiny, so as to discover the true nature or inner relationships.
  • Compare: Look for qualities or characteristics that resemble each other. Emphasize similarities among them, but in some cases also mention differences.
  • Contrast: Stress the dissimilarities, differences, or unlikeness of things, qualities, events or problems.
  • Critique: Express your judgment about the merit or truth of the factors or views mentioned. Give the results of your analysis of these factors, discussing their limitations and good points.
  • Define: Give concise, clear, and authoritative meanings. Don’t give details, but make sure to give the limits of the definition. Show how the thing you are defining differs from other things.
  • Describe: Recount, characterize, sketch, or relate in sequence or story form.
  • Diagram: Give a drawing, chart, plan, or graphic answer. Usually you should label a diagram. In some cases, add a brief explanation of description.
  • Discuss: Examine, analyze carefully, and give reasons pro and con. Be complete, and give details.
  • Enumerate: Write in list or outline form, giving points concisely one by one.
  • Evaluate: Carefully appraise the problem, citing both advantages and limitations. Emphasize the appraisal of authorities and, to a lesser degree, your personal evaluation.
  • Explain: Clarify, interpret, and spell out the material you present. Give reasons for differences of opinion or of results, and try to analyze causes.
  • Illustrate: Use a figure, picture, diagram, or concrete example to explain or clarify a problem.
  • Interpret: Translate, give examples of, solve, or comment on a subject, usually giving your judgment.
  • Justify: Prove or give reasons for decisions or conclusions, taking pains to be convincing.
  • List: As in “enumerate,” write an itemized series of concise statements.
  • Outline: Organize a description under main points and subordinate points, omitting minor details and stressing the arrangement or classification of things.
  • Prove: Establish that something is true by citing factual evidence or giving clear logical reasons.
  • Relate: Show how things are related to, or connected with, each other or how one causes another, correlates with another, or is like another.
  • Review: Examine a subject critically, analyzing and commenting on the important statements to be made about it.
  • State: Present the main points in brief, clear sequence, usually omitting details, illustrations, or examples.
  • Summarize: Give the main points or facts in condensed form, like the summary of a chapter, omitting details and illustrations.
  • Trace: In narrative form describe progress, development, or historical events from some point of origin.

Common Descriptions of Information Sources

  • Web-based: There are many types of online information, including e-journals, home-pages, newsgroups, and more. When you discuss “web-based” resources, be specific about what sort of online information you are referring to.
  • Scholarly journals: Articles are long, use terminology or jargon of the discipline, usually begin with an abstract and include a bibliography (e.g., Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology; Journal of Academic Librarianship; IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques).
  • Popular journals: These are geared towards a more general audience and available on your local newsstand. Articles are short and rarely have bibliographies. (e.g., Maclean’s, Newsweek).
  • Current: Specifically define your boundaries for “current.” Do you mean “current” as in this week, this year, this decade, this century, etc.? Can they refer to older material at all, if it is relevant?
  • Peer reviewed (or refereed) journal articles: Explain the process of having experts in the field examine an article before it is published to ensure that the research described is sound and of high quality. Refer students to the Notes for Authors section of a journal to determine if it follows peer review.
  • Primary sources: These provide firsthand information in the original words of the creator or eyewitness and may include creative works, original documents, reports of original research, or ideas.
  • Secondary sources: These provide information reviews and/or, evaluation, analysis or interpretations of primary sources.

Reproduced with additions from: Skidmore College, NY: Common Terms for Paper Topics and Essay Questions. Permission from: Professor Michael Steven Marx, Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of Liberal Studies 1, English Department, Skidmore College.

Assignment Design: Alternatives to Term Papers

There are many different ways to have students go through the research and writing process without relying on the oft-assigned term paper. Assigning something different will generate enthusiasm for the assignment and encourage original work. Be creative!

  • Reflections on the process – At various times students turn in written descriptions of their research process.
  • Problem solving approach – What steps would be taken to solve a problem.
  • Literature review – Evaluative annotated bibliography.
  • Science in the news – Find evidence in literature for news release claims.
  • Event initiated examples – Evaluate a current event based on literature findings.
  • Web assignment – Design an informative webpage.
  • Evaluate thinking – Have students discuss what they found and compare sources.
  • Read and find facts – Read an editorial, article, reflection and find facts to support it.
  • Create a webpage – Select a topic to do with course content.
  • Biography – Select a scholar/researcher in field and report on career, influences, major ideas, moods and trends in research program.
  • Follow a piece of legislation through parliament – What groups are lobbying for/against it and why?
  • Follow a current foreign policy issue as it develops – Have students adopt the perspective of one of the various groups involved and predict the next move.
  • Nominate someone for a Nobel prize – Justify the nomination.
  • Adopt a persona – Write journal entries, letters, commentaries from that person’s perspective
  • Write an exam – Provide answers and provide a rationale for the responses.
  • Write a review of a performance, a movie, a book, a journal article, a guest speaker lecture, etc.
  • Write a newspaper, magazine, webpage story on a topic.
  • Describe your dream job – Research careers in the field and justify the choice of company, location, job, etc.
  • Compare and contrast primary and secondary sources.
  • Evaluate a website.
  • Compare and contrast the state of knowledge on a topic in two different decades or eras.
  • Conduct research but don’t write the final draft.
  • Prepare for a hypothetical interview – Do background research on a company or job offer and how you fit with job description.
  • Compare and contrast the content, style, and audience of three different scholarly journals in a field.
  • Compare and contrast a scholarly journal article with an article from a popular magazine.
  • Prepare for an interview with a top figure in the field – Justify responses, provide background notes.
  • Compare and contrast the ways different disciplines deal with the same subject matter.

Multiple-Choice Exams

It’s often assumed that administering multiple-choices tests is solely an issue of convenience: testing large numbers of students simultaneously with minimal time spent grading or assessing students’ passive recognition of key concepts. There is no denying that these are particular advantages, but this doesn’t mean that multiple-choice tests can’t be developed to promote and assess deep student engagement with course content. Below you’ll find some useful tips about formatting and composing effective multiple-choice tests, including question items and response options.

Overall Formatting and Face Validity

  • Use the one-best response format; avoid true/false, multiple-correct and complex K type formats that test logic and reading skills rather than content knowledge
  • Present questions and options vertically instead of horizontally to make the break between responses explicit, thereby ensuring the readability of individual questions
  • Ensure that all of the options for a particular question appear on the same page as their corresponding question; do not split items across two pages
  • If referencing media (e.g. illustrations or charts), ensure that its location is explicit and obvious; whenever possible place that media on the same page as, and directly above, the question
  • Avoid overly specific and overly general content; keep questions and options short and concise
  • Keep vocabulary appropriate for the group being tested; avoid the use of acronyms
  • Although three options may be adequate, four options can help maintain the validity of a question stem and overall test. Five options increases work effort (e.g. reading time) without providing a significant difference in the ability to discriminate between strong and weak performers
  • Use relevant material to test higher level learning, such as inclusion of typical settings; application questions (versus simple recall) can increase validity of exam
  • Proof and edit – and have someone else proof and edit – each question stem and response option for proper and consistent grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling

Composing Question Stems

  • Avoid trick questions which test neither mastery of content nor achievement of learning objectives; they erode students’ confidence, making them second-guess themselves (and you)
  • Focus on a single topic in each question so that if a student chooses an incorrect response, it is easy to identify which content they have not mastered
  • Keep the content of each question independent from that of other items on the test, this way difficulty with one question does not mean a student is unable to complete other test questions
  • Phrase the stem as a question; students should be able to come up with a reasonable potential answer prior to looking at the choices
  • Frame the stem positively; avoid negatives such as NOT and EXCEPT; if negative words are used, ensure that they are CAPITALIZED and boldfaced
  • Present stems in such a way as to question FACTS rather than personal opinions or preferences (e.g. avoid using the pronoun “you” in the stem of the question)

Composing Response Options

  • Make all distractors plausible yet definitively incorrect; silly or implausible distractors increase students’ chances of guessing the correct answer, even if they have not studied
  • Use familiar yet incorrect phrases or typical student errors as distractors to ensure that students cannot guess the answer based on the familiarity of only one of the choices
  • Keep length of choices about equal to avoid guessing based on common assumptions that the longest answer is always the correct answer (i.e. because the professor is careful to make it precisely correct and defensible)
  • “None of the above” should be used carefully as it increases question difficulty; if this option is not used, students know that the correct answer is included in the offered list and, thus, may be able to logic through the answer
  • “All of the above” should always be avoided; it’s difficult to create a valid question in this format and it’s an easy one for test-wise people to figure out
  • Avoid giving clues to correct responses by using either specific determiners (e.g. “always”, “never”, “completely”, “absolutely”) or choices identical to or resembling words in the stem
  • Avoid providing clues to the right answer via, for example: grammatical inconsistencies; conspicuous correct choice; pairs or triplets of options; blatantly absurd options

Final Point for Consideration

Consider the overall difficulty of the test in light of knowledge that university exams are supposed to assess mastery of course materials as taught. So, some questions should be designed to test items that most people should know based on the course materials, while other items should allow for discernments to be made between highly competent and less competent students.

Short Answer Questions

Short answer questions (SAQs) are brief, to the point, and a useful means of assessing students’ knowledge and comprehension of foundational information. You can use the following guidelines to draft SAQs for student assessments. Make sure that:

  1. Questions can be answered in a few words or phrases
  2. Each question has a single focus (if you need to ask several questions, use a vignette as a preface, then ask several focused questions)
  3. Response guidelines are built into the assessment tool (e.g. space allocated on page indicates length and complexity of answer)
  4. Questions may build on each other (i.e. increasing degrees of specificity without giving away the answer to previous question)
  5. Indicate the number of grades per question

For example, you can ask students the following two SAQs:

  1. How many countries make up Africa in total? (2 marks)
  2. List six African countries. (1 mark each; 6 total)

Why use SAQs

Short Answer Questions are generally easy to develop. Like multiple-choice tests, they are great for assessing students’ ability to remember foundational information, such as terminology. Yet, they do not require you to come up with viable distractors. Well-written SAQs provide students with clear tasks and provide you and/or TAs with a clear marking guide. Rather than asking students to explain in detail the process of eukaryotic cell reproduction, for instance, you might ask them to:

  1. Identify the number of phases
  2. Name those phases
  3. Explain what happens during two of those phases

This tends to lead students to provide more concise answers and TAs to find the grading easier than in long answer questions.

Tips on developing SAQs

  • Create questions that (a) can be realistically answered in a few words/phrases and (b) have a single focus per question or subquestion.
  • Restrict the length of the answer by using precise wording to define the task. In other words, ask direct questions (what is…) and use action verbs such as (list, name, identify).
  • Choose a topic area based on what you have covered in class and readings.
  • Review questions to make sure that (a) difficulty level is appropriate for students, (b) amount of information is clearly identified, (c) mark assignment is consistent, (d) content of the questions relates to the overall goal of the assessment.
  • Provide students with a guideline for length of answers (e.g. list three items…, define three of the following four terms in one or two sentences each…).
  • If you use vignettes, (a) take into account how much time they will take to read, (b) make sure you do not give away the answer in the vignette, (c) give students a relatively plausible situation for the specific context.


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 Fig. 1) 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. 

Example of a holistic rubric or marking guide 

Figure 1: Example of a holistic rubric or marking guide

By contrast, aanalytic rubric (see Fig. 2) 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. 

Example of an analytic rubric

Figure 2: Example of an analytic rubric

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. 

Helpful Links

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.

Online Assessments

It seems that more and more people are opting to go online with their tests, quizzes and midterms these days based on its convenience and environmentally friendly nature. Assessments are graded automatically and reusable from year to year.

One of the biggest concerns facing instructors today is cheating. While there are number of things that can be done to mitigate these concerns, the most popular option is using question categories (see FAQ #1). Remember, if you have any questions or would like assistance, the EDC can help you go from paper-based assessments to an online version.


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