What are rubrics?

Rubrics are scales in which the criteria used for grading or assessment are clearly spelled out along a continuum. Rubrics can be used to assess a wide range of assignments and activities in the classroom, from oral presentations to term papers to class participation. There are two main types:

Analytic Rubrics: Separate scales for each trait, or learning outcome, being assessed within the assignment (e.g., separate scales for “Argument,” “Organization,” “Use of Evidence,” etc.)

Holistic Rubrics: A single scale for the assignment considered as a whole. (e.g., one scale describing the characteristics of an “A” assignment, a “B” assignment, or a “C” assignment, etc.)

Why are rubrics useful?

Increasingly, rubrics are being used in college courses to improve the effectiveness and the efficiency of grading. By making our grading criteria more transparent, a well-considered rubric can both enhance student learning and save us time.

Rubrics enhance student learning by . . .

  • anchoring grading to specific learning objectives rather than more subjective, distracting considerations of rank or effort
  • improving assignment design by clarifying desired learning outcomes
  • contributing to fairness and consistency across sections
  • reducing student anxiety about the subjectivity of grading

Rubrics help you save time by . . .

  • narrowing the field of evaluation to desired learning outcomes
  • facilitating constructive written comments
  • reducing grade challenges
  • reducing graders’ anxieties about grade inflation and the subjectivity of grading.