Rubrics Overview

Rubrics are scoring tools that explicitly represent 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.

Developing Rubrics

Rubrics come in all sizes and forms, but there are some essential elements and steps to designing a rubric. Explore the types of rubrics, purposes of rubrics, and download a template to begin developing your own rubrics to assess your program and course level student learning outcomes.

Need help in articulating your assignment expectations? Please review the following information to help you develop rubrics for your courses.

What is a Rubric?

  • A systematic scoring guideline to evaluate students’ performance (presentations, speeches, problem solutions, portfolios, case studies, essays) through the use of a detailed description of performance standards.
  • Used to provide a consistent scoring method.
  • Allows students to be more aware of the expectations for performance and consequently improve their performance.

What Questions do Rubrics Answer?

  • By what criteria should performance be judged?
  • Where should you look and what should you look for to judge successful performance?
  • What does the range in quality performance look like?
  • How do you determine validly, reliably, and fairly what score should be given to a student and what that score means?
  • How should the different levels of quality be described and distinguished from one another?

Why Use Rubrics?

  • Rubrics make clear the criteria by which student work will be assessed. Students, faculty, and other university stakeholders all benefit from explicit expectations and assessment criteria.
  • Rubrics inform teaching, help faculty clarify expectations, and guide decisions about curriculum, course, and assignment design.
  • Rubrics produce assessments that are far more detailed than a single, holistic grade.
  • Rubrics make scoring easier and faster as they focus on what is to be measured.
  • Rubrics make scoring more accurate and consistent and ensure the same criteria for all students.
  • Rubrics provide concepts and vocabulary to support constructive discussions about learning and reflections on the learning process.
  • Students can use rubrics to self-evaluate to see where they are and where they are headed.
  • Rubrics give students a reference point for deeper engagement and peer assessment.
  • Rubrics help track student performance and help faculty provide useful feedback to students.
  • Rubrics help gather direct evidence about student learning.

In best practices, rubrics, like other forms of assessment, are part of a cycle of reflection; they evolve based on input from users and the on-going refinement of learning goals and course activities.

Commonly Used Types of Rubrics

  • Checklists – list of accomplishments as completed or present in an assignment. Better for self-assessment or observation.
  • Rating Scales – checklist with a scoring scale along a continuum that shows the degree to which the requirements are present in a completed assignment. Quick and easy to create and score.
  • Descriptive Rubrics /Analytical Scoring Guides – descriptors describe what is expected at each level of performance. Explicitly document standards and levels of performance. Break task into parts and articulate levels of performance for each criterion.
  • Holistic Scoring Guides – short narrative descriptions to focus on the entire performance rather than components. Assesses overall performance across multiple criteria. Better for larger scale projects (150 essays or portfolios).
  • Structured Observation Guides – a rubric without a rating scale; more subjective, qualitative, but still direct and valid.

Essential Parts of a Rubric

Criteria that describe the conditions that any performance must meet to be successful. Criteria should describe both strengths and errors (errors should be described particularly in lower levels of performance)

scale of points on a continuum of quality, to be assigned in scoring each level of performance for a piece of work. High numbers are typically assigned to the best work.

Standards that specify how well criteria must be met.

Descriptors for each level of performance that contain criteria, and standards by which the performance will be judged.  Indicators are often used in descriptors to provide examples or signs of performance in each level.

Samples of Indicators/Scales/Achievement Levels

Exemplary/Proficient/Developing/Emerging
Expert/Professional/Amateur/Novice
Exceeds Standard/Meets Standard/Approaching Standard/Not Met Standard
Superior/Excellent/Satisfactory/Needs Work
Advanced/Accomplished/Adequate/Needs Improvement
Capstone/Milestones/Benchmark

Adapted from: Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide by Linda Suskie (2009), Washington State Teaching Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, and Understanding Educational Measurement by Peter McDaniel (1994) and University of Virginia Assessment Office. Developing Grading Rubrics. Dawn M. Zimmaro, Ph.D.

Steps in the Design of a Descriptive or Analytic Rubric

Step 1. Review Course Goals and Objectives - Examine the learning objectives or learning outcomes/course goals to be addressed by the assignment.

Step 2. Identify Criteria for Assessment of Student Work - Identify specific observable attributes that you want to see (as well as those you don’t want to see) your students demonstrate in their product, process, or performance.  Keep the list manageable. Edit the list so that each item is specific and concrete, using action verbs and descriptive, meaningful adjectives.

Step 3. Identify Levels of Achievement - Assign values, either numeric or descriptive, to varying levels of competence or skill. Brainstorm characteristics that describe each attribute.  This is the rating scale for the rubric.

Step 4. Write Descriptions of Criteria for Each Level - Write thorough narrative descriptions for all levels of each attribute or criteria. Describe the highest, middle range, and lowest levels of performance using the descriptors for each attribute/criteria separately.

Step 5. Test the Rubric - Test the rubric and collect samples of student work that exemplify each level. These will help you score in the future by serving as benchmarks. When happy with first version, share the rubric with class when you hand out the assignment and give them a completed one when assignment is returned.

Step 6. Improve the Rubric as Needed - Revise the rubric, as necessary.  Be prepared to reflect on the effectiveness of the rubric and revise it prior to its next implementation.

Here is a template for designing a descriptive or an analytical rubric.

 

Information adapted from various sources (Airasian, 2000 & 2001; Mertler, 2001; Montgomery, 2001; Nitko, 2001; Tombari & Borich, 1999).

Rubric Samples

There are sites and various types of rubrics that are good resources as you begin to design rubrics to help you assess student learning. To help you get started, please review the samples, sites, and RIT developed rubrics that are posted here.

RIT Rubric Sample

The following rubric was developed by RIT faculty and is shared with permission. Please contact the faculty member directly if you have questions.
 
Program / College Student Learning Outcome(s) Rubric
Mechanical Engineering - KGCOE Thesis Proposal Review Mechanical Engineering Thesis Proposal Review Rubric

Rubric Resources

There are several websites available where you can download sample rubrics and rubric templates: