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An assignment rubric can serve multiple purposes:
- communicate to your students the exact aspects of the assignment they will be graded on
- model scholarly practice to students
- help you grade submitted assignments in an efficient and transparent way.
Here are some samples:
- Annotated Bibliography Evaluation Rubric
- Research Paper Rubric (Cornell College)
- Rubric for Research Paper (Kansas St)
- Sample Grading and Performance Rubrics (Carnegie Mellon)
If interested in creating your own research assignment/paper rubric, the library can help you with the library and information literacy aspects of that. Email [email protected] for help with this.
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Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates
Instructors have many tasks to perform during the semester, including grading assignments and assessments. Feedback on performance is a critical factor in helping students improve and succeed. Grading rubrics can provide more consistent feedback for students and create efficiency for the instructor/grader.
A rubric is a scoring tool that identifies the different criteria relevant to an assignment, assessment, or learning outcome and states the possible levels of achievement in a specific, clear, and objective way. Use rubrics to assess project-based student work, including essays, group projects, creative endeavors, and oral presentations. Rubrics are helpful for instructors because they can help them communicate expectations to students and assess student work fairly and efficiently. Finally, rubrics can provide students with informative feedback on their strengths and weaknesses so that they can reflect on their performance and work on areas that need improvement.
How to Get Started
Best practices, moodle how-to guides.
- Workshop Recording (Fall 2022)
- Workshop Registration
Step 1: Define the Purpose
The first step in the rubric-creation process is to define the purpose of the assignment or assessment for which you are creating a rubric. To do this, consider the following questions:
- What is the assignment?
- Does the assignment break down into different or smaller tasks?
- Are these tasks equally important as the main assignment?
- What are the learning objectives for the assignment?
- What do you want students to demonstrate through the completion of this assignment?
- What would an excellent assignment look like?
- How would you describe an acceptable assignment?
- How would you describe an assignment that falls below expectations?
- What kind of feedback do you want to give students for their work?
- Do you want/need to give them a grade? If so, do you want to give them a single overall grade or detailed feedback based on a variety of criteria?
- Do you want to give students specific feedback that will help them improve their future work?
Step 2: Decide What Kind of Rubric You Will Use
Types of rubrics: holistic, analytic/descriptive, single-point
Holistic Rubric. A holistic rubric consists of a single scale with all the criteria to be included in the evaluation (such as clarity, organization, mechanics, etc.) being considered together. With a holistic rubric, the rater or grader assigns a single score (usually on a 1-4 or 1-6 point scale) based on an overall judgment of the student’s work. The rater matches an entire piece of student work to a single description on the scale.
Advantages of holistic rubrics:
- Place an emphasis on what learners can demonstrate rather than what they cannot
- Save time by minimizing the number of decisions to be made
- Can be used consistently across raters, provided they have all been trained
Disadvantages of holistic rubrics:
- Do not provide specific feedback for improvement
- Can be difficult to choose a score when a student’s work is at varying levels across the criteria
- Criteria cannot be weighted
Analytic/Descriptive Rubric . An analytic rubric resembles a grid with the criteria for an assignment listed in the left column and with levels of performance listed across the top row, often using numbers and/or descriptive tags. The cells within the center of the rubric may be left blank or may contain descriptions of what the specified criteria look like for each level of performance. When scoring with an analytic rubric, each of the criteria is scored individually.
Advantages of analytic rubrics:
- Provide feedback on areas of strength or weakness
- Each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance
Disadvantages of analytic rubrics:
- More time-consuming to create and use than a holistic rubric
- May not be used consistently across raters unless the rubrics are well defined
- May limit personalized feedback to help students improve
Single-Point Rubric . Similar to an analytic/descriptive rubric in that it breaks down the components of an assignment into different criteria. The detailed performance descriptors are only for the level of proficiency. Feedback space is provided for instructors to give individualized comments to help students improve and/or show where they excelled beyond the proficiency descriptors.
Advantages of single-point rubrics:
- Easier to create than an analytic/descriptive rubric
- More likely that students will read the descriptors
- Areas of concern and excellence are open-ended removes a focus on the grade/points
- May increase student creativity in project-based assignments
- Requires more work for instructors writing feedback
Step 3: Define the Criteria
Ask yourself: What knowledge and skills are required for the assignment/assessment? Make a list of these, group and label them, and eliminate any that are not critical.
Helpful strategies for defining grading criteria:
- Review the learning objectives for the course; use the assignment prompt, existing grading checklists, peer response sheets, comments on previous work, past examples of student work, etc.
- Try describing A/B/C work.
- Consider “sentence starters” with verbs describing student performance from Bloom’s Taxonomy or other terms to indicate various levels of performance, i.e., presence to absence, complete to incomplete, many to some to none, major to minor, consistent to inconsistent, always to usually to sometimes to rarely
- Collaborate with co-instructors, teaching assistants, and other colleagues
- Brainstorm and discuss with students
- Can they be observed and measured?
- Are they important and essential?
- Are they distinct from other criteria?
- Are they phrased in precise, unambiguous language?
- Revise the criteria as needed
- Consider how you will weigh them in relation to each other
Step 4: Design the Rating Scale
Most ratings scales include between 3 and 5 levels. Consider the following questions:
- Given what students are able to demonstrate in this assignment/assessment, what are the possible levels of achievement?
- Will you use numbers or descriptive labels for these levels?
- If you choose descriptive labels, what labels are most appropriate? Will you assign a number to those labels?
- In what order will you list these levels — from lowest to highest or vice versa?
Step 5: Write Descriptions for Each Level of the Rating Scale
Create statements of expected performance at each level of the rubric. For an analytic rubric, do this for each particular criterion of the rubric. These descriptions help students understand your expectations and their performance in regard to those expectations.
Start with the top/exemplary work category –what does it look like when a student has achieved excellence in each category? Then look at the “bottom” category –what does it look like when students have not achieved the learning goals in any way? Then add the categories in between.
Also, take into consideration that well-written descriptions:
- Describe observable and measurable behavior
- Use parallel language across the scale
- Indicate the degree to which the standards are met
Step 6: Create your Rubric
- Develop the criteria, rating scale, and descriptions for each level of the rating scale into a rubric
- Include the assignment at the top of the rubric, space permitting
- For reading and grading ease, limit the rubric to a single page, if possible
- Consider the effectiveness of your rubric and revise accordingly
- Create your rubric in a table or spreadsheet in Word, Google Docs, Sheets, etc., and then transfer it by typing it into Moodle. You can also use online tools to create the rubric, but you will still have to type the criteria, indicators, levels, etc., into Moodle. Rubric creators: Rubistar , iRubric
Step 7: Pilot-test your Rubric
Prior to implementing your rubric on a live course, obtain feedback from:
- Teacher Assistants
Also, try out your new rubric on a sample of student work. After you pilot-test your rubric, analyze the results to consider its effectiveness and revise accordingly.
- Use Parallel Language . Make sure that the language from column to column is similar and that syntax and wording correspond. Of course, the words will change for each section or assignment, as will the expectations, but in terms of readability, make sure that the rubric can be easily read from left to right or vice versa. In addition, if you have an indicator described in one category, it will need to be described in the next category, whether it is about “having included” or “not having included” something. This is all about clarity and transparency to students.
- Use Student-Friendly Language . If students can’t understand the rubric, it will not be useful for guiding instruction, reflection, and assessment. If you want students to engage in using the rubric, they have to understand it. Make sure the language is learning-level appropriate. If you use academic language or concepts, you will need to teach those concepts.
- Use the Rubric with Your Students . You have to use the rubric with the students. It means nothing to them if you don’t. For students to find the rubric useful in terms of their learning, they must see a reason for using it. Students should understand that the rubric is there to help them learn, reflect, and self-assess. If students use a rubric, they will understand the expectations and their relevance to learning.
- Don’t Use Too Many Columns . The rubric needs to be comprehensible and organized. Pick the right amount of columns so that the criteria flow logically and naturally across levels.
- Common Rubrics and Templates are Awesome . Avoid rubric fatigue, as in creating rubrics to the point where you just can’t do it anymore. This can be done with common rubrics that students see across multiple classroom activities and through creating templates that you can alter slightly as needed. Design those templates for learning targets or similar performance tasks in your classroom. It’s easy to change these types of rubrics later. Figure out your common practices and create a single rubric your team can use.
- Rely on Descriptive Language. The most effective descriptions are those that use specific descriptions. This means avoiding words like “good” and “excellent.” At the same time, don’t rely on numbers, such as a number of resources, as your crutch. Instead of saying, “find excellent sources” or “use three sources,” focus your rubric language on the quality use of whatever sources students find and on the best possible way of aligning that data to the work. It isn’t about the number of sources, and “excellent” is too vague for students. Be specific and descriptive.
Example of an analytic rubric for a final paper
Example of a holistic rubric for a final paper, single-point rubric.
- Single Point Rubric Template ( variation )
- Analytic Rubric Template make a copy to edit
- A Rubric for Rubrics
- Single Point Discussion Rubric
- Mathematical Presentations Descriptive Rubric
- Math Proof Assessment Rubric
- Kansas State Sample Rubrics
- Design Single Point Rubric
Technology Tools: Rubrics in Moodle
- Moodle Docs: Rubrics
- Moodle Docs: Grading Guide (use for single-point rubrics)
Supplemental Tools with Rubrics in Moodle
- Google Assignments
- Turnitin Assignments: Rubric or Grading Form
- DELTA – Rubrics: Making Assignments Easier for You and Your Students (2/1/2022)
- DePaul University (n.d.). Rubrics. Retrieved from http://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/feedback-grading/rubrics/Pages/default.aspx
- Gonzalez, J. (2014). Know your terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics. Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/holistic-analytic-single-point-rubrics/
- Goodrich, H. (1996). Understanding rubrics. Teaching for Authentic Student Performance, 54 (4), 14-17. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec96/vol54/num04/Understanding-Rubrics.aspx
- Miller, A. (2012). Tame the beast: tips for designing and using rubrics. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/designing-using-rubrics-andrew-miller
- Ragupathi, K., Lee, A. (2020). Beyond Fairness and Consistency in Grading: The Role of Rubrics in Higher Education. In: Sanger, C., Gleason, N. (eds) Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1628-3_3
Teaching excellence & educational innovation, grading and performance rubrics, what are rubrics.
A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly represents the performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric divides the assigned work into component parts and provides clear descriptions of the characteristics of the work associated with each component, at varying levels of mastery. Rubrics can be used for a wide array of assignments: papers, projects, oral presentations, artistic performances, group projects, etc. Rubrics can be used as scoring or grading guides, to provide formative feedback to support and guide ongoing learning efforts, or both.
Advantages of Using Rubrics
Using a rubric provides several advantages to both instructors and students. Grading according to an explicit and descriptive set of criteria that is designed to reflect the weighted importance of the objectives of the assignment helps ensure that the instructor’s grading standards don’t change over time. Grading consistency is difficult to maintain over time because of fatigue, shifting standards based on prior experience, or intrusion of other criteria. Furthermore, rubrics can reduce the time spent grading by reducing uncertainty and by allowing instructors to refer to the rubric description associated with a score rather than having to write long comments. Finally, grading rubrics are invaluable in large courses that have multiple graders (other instructors, teaching assistants, etc.) because they can help ensure consistency across graders and reduce the systematic bias that can be introduced between graders.
Used more formatively, rubrics can help instructors get a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of their class. By recording the component scores and tallying up the number of students scoring below an acceptable level on each component, instructors can identify those skills or concepts that need more instructional time and student effort.
Grading rubrics are also valuable to students. A rubric can help instructors communicate to students the specific requirements and acceptable performance standards of an assignment. When rubrics are given to students with the assignment description, they can help students monitor and assess their progress as they work toward clearly indicated goals. When assignments are scored and returned with the rubric, students can more easily recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their work and direct their efforts accordingly.
Examples of Rubrics
Here are links to a diverse set of rubrics designed by Carnegie Mellon faculty and faculty at other institutions. Although your particular field of study and type of assessment activity may not be represented currently, viewing a rubric that is designed for a similar activity may provide you with ideas on how to divide your task into components and how to describe the varying levels of mastery.
- Example 1: Philosophy Paper This rubric was designed for student papers in a range of philosophy courses, CMU.
- Example 2: Psychology Assignment Short, concept application homework assignment in cognitive psychology, CMU.
- Example 3: Anthropology Writing Assignments This rubric was designed for a series of short writing assignments in anthropology, CMU.
- Example 4: History Research Paper . This rubric was designed for essays and research papers in history, CMU.
- Example 1: Capstone Project in Design This rubric describes the components and standard of performance from the research phase to the final presentation for a senior capstone project in the School of Design, CMU.
- Example 2: Engineering Design Project This rubric describes performance standards on three aspects of a team project: Research and Design, Communication, and Team Work.
- Example 1: Oral Exam This rubric describes a set of components and standards for assessing performance on an oral exam in an upper-division history course, CMU.
- Example 2: Oral Communication
- Example 3: Group Presentations This rubric describes a set of components and standards for assessing group presentations in a history course, CMU.
- Example 1: Discussion Class This rubric assesses the quality of student contributions to class discussions. This is appropriate for an undergraduate-level course, CMU.
- Example 2: Advanced Seminar This rubric is designed for assessing discussion performance in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar.
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iRubric: Personal logo rubric
- decipherable, memorable, meaningful, neat, simple
Main navigation, articulating your assessment values.
Reading, commenting on, and then assigning a grade to a piece of student writing requires intense attention and difficult judgment calls. Some faculty dread “the stack.” Students may share the faculty’s dim view of writing assessment, perceiving it as highly subjective. They wonder why one faculty member values evidence and correctness before all else, while another seeks a vaguely defined originality.
Writing rubrics can help address the concerns of both faculty and students by making writing assessment more efficient, consistent, and public. Whether it is called a grading rubric, a grading sheet, or a scoring guide, a writing assignment rubric lists criteria by which the writing is graded.
Why create a writing rubric?
- It makes your tacit rhetorical knowledge explicit
- It articulates community- and discipline-specific standards of excellence
- It links the grade you give the assignment to the criteria
- It can make your grading more efficient, consistent, and fair as you can read and comment with your criteria in mind
- It can help you reverse engineer your course: once you have the rubrics created, you can align your readings, activities, and lectures with the rubrics to set your students up for success
- It can help your students produce writing that you look forward to reading
How to create a writing rubric
Create a rubric at the same time you create the assignment. It will help you explain to the students what your goals are for the assignment.
- Consider your purpose: do you need a rubric that addresses the standards for all the writing in the course? Or do you need to address the writing requirements and standards for just one assignment? Task-specific rubrics are written to help teachers assess individual assignments or genres, whereas generic rubrics are written to help teachers assess multiple assignments.
- Begin by listing the important qualities of the writing that will be produced in response to a particular assignment. It may be helpful to have several examples of excellent versions of the assignment in front of you: what writing elements do they all have in common? Among other things, these may include features of the argument, such as a main claim or thesis; use and presentation of sources, including visuals; and formatting guidelines such as the requirement of a works cited.
- Then consider how the criteria will be weighted in grading. Perhaps all criteria are equally important, or perhaps there are two or three that all students must achieve to earn a passing grade. Decide what best fits the class and requirements of the assignment.
Consider involving students in Steps 2 and 3. A class session devoted to developing a rubric can provoke many important discussions about the ways the features of the language serve the purpose of the writing. And when students themselves work to describe the writing they are expected to produce, they are more likely to achieve it.
At this point, you will need to decide if you want to create a holistic or an analytic rubric. There is much debate about these two approaches to assessment.
Comparing Holistic and Analytic Rubrics
Holistic scoring .
Holistic scoring aims to rate overall proficiency in a given student writing sample. It is often used in large-scale writing program assessment and impromptu classroom writing for diagnostic purposes.
General tenets to holistic scoring:
- Responding to drafts is part of evaluation
- Responses do not focus on grammar and mechanics during drafting and there is little correction
- Marginal comments are kept to 2-3 per page with summative comments at end
- End commentary attends to students’ overall performance across learning objectives as articulated in the assignment
- Response language aims to foster students’ self-assessment
Holistic rubrics emphasize what students do well and generally increase efficiency; they may also be more valid because scoring includes authentic, personal reaction of the reader. But holistic sores won’t tell a student how they’ve progressed relative to previous assignments and may be rater-dependent, reducing reliability. (For a summary of advantages and disadvantages of holistic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 116.)
Here is an example of a partial holistic rubric:
Summary meets all the criteria. The writer understands the article thoroughly. The main points in the article appear in the summary with all main points proportionately developed. The summary should be as comprehensive as possible and should be as comprehensive as possible and should read smoothly, with appropriate transitions between ideas. Sentences should be clear, without vagueness or ambiguity and without grammatical or mechanical errors.
A complete holistic rubric for a research paper (authored by Jonah Willihnganz) can be downloaded here.
Analytic scoring makes explicit the contribution to the final grade of each element of writing. For example, an instructor may choose to give 30 points for an essay whose ideas are sufficiently complex, that marshals good reasons in support of a thesis, and whose argument is logical; and 20 points for well-constructed sentences and careful copy editing.
General tenets to analytic scoring:
- Reflect emphases in your teaching and communicate the learning goals for the course
- Emphasize student performance across criterion, which are established as central to the assignment in advance, usually on an assignment sheet
- Typically take a quantitative approach, providing a scaled set of points for each criterion
- Make the analytic framework available to students before they write
Advantages of an analytic rubric include ease of training raters and improved reliability. Meanwhile, writers often can more easily diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of their work. But analytic rubrics can be time-consuming to produce, and raters may judge the writing holistically anyway. Moreover, many readers believe that writing traits cannot be separated. (For a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of analytic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 115.)
For example, a partial analytic rubric for a single trait, “addresses a significant issue”:
- Excellent: Elegantly establishes the current problem, why it matters, to whom
- Above Average: Identifies the problem; explains why it matters and to whom
- Competent: Describes topic but relevance unclear or cursory
- Developing: Unclear issue and relevance
A complete analytic rubric for a research paper can be downloaded here. In WIM courses, this language should be revised to name specific disciplinary conventions.
Whichever type of rubric you write, your goal is to avoid pushing students into prescriptive formulas and limiting thinking (e.g., “each paragraph has five sentences”). By carefully describing the writing you want to read, you give students a clear target, and, as Ed White puts it, “describe the ongoing work of the class” (75).
Writing rubrics contribute meaningfully to the teaching of writing. Think of them as a coaching aide. In class and in conferences, you can use the language of the rubric to help you move past generic statements about what makes good writing good to statements about what constitutes success on the assignment and in the genre or discourse community. The rubric articulates what you are asking students to produce on the page; once that work is accomplished, you can turn your attention to explaining how students can achieve it.
Becker, Anthony. “Examining Rubrics Used to Measure Writing Performance in U.S. Intensive English Programs.” The CATESOL Journal 22.1 (2010/2011):113-30. Web.
White, Edward M. Teaching and Assessing Writing . Proquest Info and Learning, 1985. Print.
CCCC Committee on Assessment. “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement.” November 2006 (Revised March 2009). Conference on College Composition and Communication. Web.
Gallagher, Chris W. “Assess Locally, Validate Globally: Heuristics for Validating Local Writing Assessments.” Writing Program Administration 34.1 (2010): 10-32. Web.
Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. Print.
Kelly-Reilly, Diane, and Peggy O’Neil, eds. Journal of Writing Assessment. Web.
McKee, Heidi A., and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss DeVoss, Eds. Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. Web.
O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot. A Guide to College Writing Assessment . Logan: Utah State UP, 2009. Print.
Sommers, Nancy. Responding to Student Writers . Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.
Straub, Richard. “Responding, Really Responding to Other Students’ Writing.” The Subject is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students. Ed. Wendy Bishop. Boynton/Cook, 1999. Web.
White, Edward M., and Cassie A. Wright. Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide . 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. Print.
A rubric is commonly defined as a tool that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing criteria, and for each criteria, describing levels of quality (Andrade, 2000; Arter & Chappuis, 2007; Stiggins, 2001). Criteria are used in determining the level at which student work meets expectations. Markers of quality give students a clear idea about what must be done to demonstrate a certain level of mastery, understanding, or proficiency (i.e., "Exceeds Expectations" does xyz, "Meets Expectations" does only xy or yz, "Developing" does only x or y or z). Rubrics can be used for any assignment in a course, or for any way in which students are asked to demonstrate what they've learned. They can also be used to facilitate self and peer-reviews of student work.
Rubrics aren't just for summative evaluation. They can be used as a teaching tool as well. When used as part of a formative assessment, they can help students understand both the holistic nature and/or specific analytics of learning expected, the level of learning expected, and then make decisions about their current level of learning to inform revision and improvement (Reddy & Andrade, 2010).
Why use rubrics?
Rubrics help instructors:
Provide students with feedback that is clear, directed and focused on ways to improve learning.
Demystify assignment expectations so students can focus on the work instead of guessing "what the instructor wants."
Reduce time spent on grading and develop consistency in how you evaluate student learning across students and throughout a class.
Rubrics help students:
Focus their efforts on completing assignments in line with clearly set expectations.
Self and Peer-reflect on their learning, making informed changes to achieve the desired learning level.
Developing a Rubric
During the process of developing a rubric, instructors might:
Select an assignment for your course - ideally one you identify as time intensive to grade, or students report as having unclear expectations.
Decide what you want students to demonstrate about their learning through that assignment. These are your criteria.
Identify the markers of quality on which you feel comfortable evaluating students’ level of learning - often along with a numerical scale (i.e., "Accomplished," "Emerging," "Beginning" for a developmental approach).
Give students the rubric ahead of time. Advise them to use it in guiding their completion of the assignment.
It can be overwhelming to create a rubric for every assignment in a class at once, so start by creating one rubric for one assignment. See how it goes and develop more from there! Also, do not reinvent the wheel. Rubric templates and examples exist all over the Internet, or consider asking colleagues if they have developed rubrics for similar assignments.
Examples of holistic and analytic rubrics : see Tables 2 & 3 in “Rubrics: Tools for Making Learning Goals and Evaluation Criteria Explicit for Both Teachers and Learners” (Allen & Tanner, 2006)
Examples across assessment types : see “Creating and Using Rubrics,” Carnegie Mellon Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and & Educational Innovation
“VALUE Rubrics” : see the Association of American Colleges and Universities set of free, downloadable rubrics, with foci including creative thinking, problem solving, and information literacy.
Andrade, H. 2000. Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership 57, no. 5: 13–18. Arter, J., and J. Chappuis. 2007. Creating and recognizing quality rubrics. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall. Stiggins, R.J. 2001. Student-involved classroom assessment. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Reddy, Y., & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation In Higher Education, 35(4), 435-448.
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Check your work with rubrics
Important: This only applies to assignments graded with Google Assignments.
A rubric is an assessment tool that defines the grading or feedback criteria for an assignment. If an assignment has a rubric, you can see it in the assignment description. As you work, refer to the rubric to help improve your grade.
After your instructor grades and returns your work, you can review your rubric score. In scored rubrics, each level has points you can earn. Your instructor matches the level of your work to a level on the rubric. Review the rubric to see what category you did well in, and where you might improve.
See an assignment's rubric
- Go to your learning management system (LMS).
- Click the course.
See my rubric feedback
Need more help, try these next steps:.
How to Use Rubrics
A rubric is a document that describes the criteria by which students’ assignments are graded. Rubrics can be helpful for:
- Making grading faster and more consistent (reducing potential bias).
- Communicating your expectations for an assignment to students before they begin.
Moreover, for assignments whose criteria are more subjective, the process of creating a rubric and articulating what it looks like to succeed at an assignment provides an opportunity to check for alignment with the intended learning outcomes and modify the assignment prompt, as needed.
Rubrics are best for assignments or projects that require evaluation on multiple dimensions. Creating a rubric makes the instructor’s standards explicit to both students and other teaching staff for the class, showing students how to meet expectations.
Additionally, the more comprehensive a rubric is, the more it allows for grading to be streamlined—students will get informative feedback about their performance from the rubric, even if they don’t have as many individualized comments. Grading can be more standardized and efficient across graders.
Finally, rubrics allow for reflection, as the instructor has to think about their standards and outcomes for the students. Using rubrics can help with self-directed learning in students as well, especially if rubrics are used to review students’ own work or their peers’, or if students are involved in creating the rubric.
How to design a rubric
1. consider the desired learning outcomes.
What learning outcomes is this assignment reinforcing and assessing? If the learning outcome seems “fuzzy,” iterate on the outcome by thinking about the expected student work product. This may help you more clearly articulate the learning outcome in a way that is measurable.
2. Define criteria
What does a successful assignment submission look like? As described by Allen and Tanner (2006), it can help develop an initial list of categories that the student should demonstrate proficiency in by completing the assignment. These categories should correlate with the intended learning outcomes you identified in Step 1, although they may be more granular in some cases. For example, if the task assesses students’ ability to formulate an effective communication strategy, what components of their communication strategy will you be looking for? Talking with colleagues or looking at existing rubrics for similar tasks may give you ideas for categories to consider for evaluation.
If you have assigned this task to students before and have samples of student work, it can help create a qualitative observation guide. This is described in Linda Suskie’s book Assessing Student Learning , where she suggests thinking about what made you decide to give one assignment an A and another a C, as well as taking notes when grading assignments and looking for common patterns. The often repeated themes that you comment on may show what your goals and expectations for students are. An example of an observation guide used to take notes on predetermined areas of an assignment is shown here .
In summary, consider the following list of questions when defining criteria for a rubric (O’Reilly and Cyr, 2006):
- What do you want students to learn from the task?
- How will students demonstrate that they have learned?
- What knowledge, skills, and behaviors are required for the task?
- What steps are required for the task?
- What are the characteristics of the final product?
After developing an initial list of criteria, prioritize the most important skills you want to target and eliminate unessential criteria or combine similar skills into one group. Most rubrics have between 3 and 8 criteria. Rubrics that are too lengthy make it difficult to grade and challenging for students to understand the key skills they need to achieve for the given assignment.
3. Create the rating scale
According to Suskie, you will want at least 3 performance levels: for adequate and inadequate performance, at the minimum, and an exemplary level to motivate students to strive for even better work. Rubrics often contain 5 levels, with an additional level between adequate and exemplary and a level between adequate and inadequate. Usually, no more than 5 levels are needed, as having too many rating levels can make it hard to consistently distinguish which rating to give an assignment (such as between a 6 or 7 out of 10). Suskie also suggests labeling each level with names to clarify which level represents the minimum acceptable performance. Labels will vary by assignment and subject, but some examples are:
- Exceeds standard, meets standard, approaching standard, below standard
- Complete evidence, partial evidence, minimal evidence, no evidence
4. Fill in descriptors
Fill in descriptors for each criterion at each performance level. Expand on the list of criteria you developed in Step 2. Begin to write full descriptions, thinking about what an exemplary example would look like for students to strive towards. Avoid vague terms like “good” and make sure to use explicit, concrete terms to describe what would make a criterion good. For instance, a criterion called “organization and structure” would be more descriptive than “writing quality.” Describe measurable behavior and use parallel language for clarity; the wording for each criterion should be very similar, except for the degree to which standards are met. For example, in a sample rubric from Chapter 9 of Suskie’s book, the criterion of “persuasiveness” has the following descriptors:
- Well Done (5): Motivating questions and advance organizers convey the main idea. Information is accurate.
- Satisfactory (3-4): Includes persuasive information.
- Needs Improvement (1-2): Include persuasive information with few facts.
- Incomplete (0): Information is incomplete, out of date, or incorrect.
These sample descriptors generally have the same sentence structure that provides consistent language across performance levels and shows the degree to which each standard is met.
5. Test your rubric
Test your rubric using a range of student work to see if the rubric is realistic. You may also consider leaving room for aspects of the assignment, such as effort, originality, and creativity, to encourage students to go beyond the rubric. If there will be multiple instructors grading, it is important to calibrate the scoring by having all graders use the rubric to grade a selected set of student work and then discuss any differences in the scores. This process helps develop consistency in grading and making the grading more valid and reliable.
Types of Rubrics
If you would like to dive deeper into rubric terminology, this section is dedicated to discussing some of the different types of rubrics. However, regardless of the type of rubric you use, it’s still most important to focus first on your learning goals and think about how the rubric will help clarify students’ expectations and measure student progress towards those learning goals.
Depending on the nature of the assignment, rubrics can come in several varieties (Suskie, 2009):
This is the simplest kind of rubric, which lists specific features or aspects of the assignment which may be present or absent. A checklist rubric does not involve the creation of a rating scale with descriptors. See example from 18.821 project-based math class .
Rating Scale Rubric
This is like a checklist rubric, but instead of merely noting the presence or absence of a feature or aspect of the assignment, the grader also rates quality (often on a graded or Likert-style scale). See example from 6.811 assistive technology class .
A descriptive rubric is like a rating scale, but including descriptions of what performing to a certain level on each scale looks like. Descriptive rubrics are particularly useful in communicating instructors’ expectations of performance to students and in creating consistency with multiple graders on an assignment. This kind of rubric is probably what most people think of when they imagine a rubric. See example from 15.279 communications class .
Holistic Scoring Guide
Unlike the first 3 types of rubrics, a holistic scoring guide describes performance at different levels (e.g., A-level performance, B-level performance) holistically without analyzing the assignment into several different scales. This kind of rubric is particularly useful when there are many assignments to grade and a moderate to a high degree of subjectivity in the assessment of quality. It can be difficult to have consistency across scores, and holistic scoring guides are most helpful when making decisions quickly rather than providing detailed feedback to students. See example from 11.229 advanced writing seminar .
The kind of rubric that is most appropriate will depend on the assignment in question.
Rubrics are also available to use for Canvas assignments. See this resource from Boston College for more details and guides from Canvas Instructure.
Allen, D., & Tanner, K. (2006). Rubrics: Tools for Making Learning Goals and Evaluation Criteria Explicit for Both Teachers and Learners. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 5 (3), 197-203. doi:10.1187/cbe.06-06-0168
Cherie Miot Abbanat. 11.229 Advanced Writing Seminar. Spring 2004. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .
Haynes Miller, Nat Stapleton, Saul Glasman, and Susan Ruff. 18.821 Project Laboratory in Mathematics. Spring 2013. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .
Lori Breslow, and Terence Heagney. 15.279 Management Communication for Undergraduates. Fall 2012. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .
O’Reilly, L., & Cyr, T. (2006). Creating a Rubric: An Online Tutorial for Faculty. Retrieved from https://www.ucdenver.edu/faculty_staff/faculty/center-for-faculty-development/Documents/Tutorials/Rubrics/index.htm
Suskie, L. (2009). Using a scoring guide or rubric to plan and evaluate an assessment. In Assessing student learning: A common sense guide (2nd edition, pp. 137-154 ) . Jossey-Bass.
William Li, Grace Teo, and Robert Miller. 6.811 Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology. Fall 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu . License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA .
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Senate Democrats launch effort to bypass Tommy Tuberville's hold on military promotions
WASHINGTON — A group of Senate Democrats is aiming to sidestep an Alabama Republican's blockade on hundreds of high-level military promotions by allowing the Senate to vote on all the nominees at once.
A resolution crafted by Democrats and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona would use a Senate tool to bypass Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who for months has prevented a quick vote on more than 300 top-level military promotions in protest of the Defense Department’s abortion travel policy.
The measure — spearheaded by Democratic Sens. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Sinema — is not technically a rules change. Instead, it’s a temporary process change that would only be in effect through the end of next year. It also includes an exception for members of the joint chiefs and combatant commanders, positions which typically involve individual floor votes in the Senate due to their importance.
“This is a suspension of the rules technically,” Reed, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC News. “We have to move forward," he added, noting that military personnel were being left "in limbo" amid the Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The proposed resolution comes as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has pressed to advance a vote on three of President Joe Biden’s nominees, including the Marine Corps’ second-in-command, Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, the chief of naval operations and the Air Force chief of staff.
Schumer called Mahoney's appointment "urgent," after the Marine Corps’ commandant, Gen. Eric Smith, was hospitalized due to a medical emergency over the weekend.
On Wednesday, Schumer told reporters he will call for moving forward with Reed’s resolution.
“What happened with the Marine commandant just showed many people how dangerous what Tuberville is doing is. And so, I will call for a resolution on the floor to allow us to vote on all these people at once,” Schumer said.
The resolution would have to go through the Senate Rules Committee. It would also require 60 votes to pass on the Senate floor. No Senate Republicans have come out and said explicitly that they would support such a move.
“I don’t want to, let’s just put it like that,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told NBC News on Wednesday. “I do not want to, and I think that we need to take every avenue possible to avoid it. And then let’s take every avenue first and then we’ll debate the next move.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, told reporters that military personnel were “being punished over policies that they they have no hand in."
Sullivan, a former Marine, added that "even if they got confirmed" they "would have no ability to change" those policies.
“That these guys are woke? It’s bull----. Such bull----,” he said. “These are warriors."
In a notable intraparty escalation, Republicans on Wednesday went to the floor for the first time to try and unanimously approve a group of high-level military promotions, a tactic that Tuberville has objected to. The move mirrors attempts Senate Democrats have made in past months to try and do the same, and marks a significant shift for Tuberville’s Republican colleagues who, until Wednesday, had not publicly rebuffed his holds on the Senate floor.
“One of the things that I can’t understand is if you require our military to be subordinate to the people above them in the civilian world, why would you punish them for something they’ve got nothing to do with,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on the Senate floor before attempting to confirm a promotion for Maj. Gen. Laura Lenderman.
Tuberville objected to the attempt, saying, “If senators want to vote on these nominees one by one, I’m all in. I’m happy to do that. But I will keep my hold in place until the Pentagon follows the law or the Democrats change the law.”
“You’ve just denied this lady a promotion. You did that,” Graham responded.
The floor fight between Tuberville and his GOP colleagues lasted about four-and-a-half hours, with Tuberville objecting to each of the 60 military nominations brought to the floor.
Tuberville, who tried to force a vote on Mahoney , said Republicans voting to circumvent his holds would be “suicide for some of them.”
“They’ve gotta vote for their constituents, they don’t vote for themselves,” Tuberville told NBC News before the floor fight. “See, I don’t understand that. I mean, you’re either pro-life or you're not, and so if they vote against this it’s gonna be suicide for some of them. Let them do it.”
The change to the procedures for the military promotions sought by Senate Democrats would need the support of nine Senate Republicans if all 51 senators who align with Democrats support it. Some Republicans are skittish on changing the rules, even if they support the end result.
“I’m always really circumspect about changing the rules here for a specific situation," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told NBC News.
Murkowski said that a "failure" to process the nominations bears an impact on national security and preparedness.
"I think it impacts morale," she added. “And at a time when we call on our military to do so much, I don’t want to unduly degrade their situation. So I’d like to see a resolve to this.”
Tuberville’s holds do not prohibit the promotions from being taken up for a vote, but it slows down the process significantly for each of the nominees.
Democrats have largely dismissed calls from Republicans to consider the promotions one-by-one, arguing that such a process is untenable and that the Senate should follow what has been a customary process of approving the promotions in batches.
Frank Thorp V is a producer and off-air reporter covering Congress for NBC News, managing coverage of the Senate.
Julie Tsirkin is a correspondent covering Capitol Hill.
Kate Santaliz is a researcher for NBC News’ Capitol Hill team.
Zoë Richards is the evening politics reporter for NBC News.