What is a rubric and why use them?

A rubric consists of three main elements:

  • a set of criteria that together form a complete assessment for a deliverable or competency,
  • levels of mastery for each criterion that span possible performance in the criteria, and
  • a clear descriptor outlining the specific evidence that could be used used to categorize performance in each criterion at each level of mastery.

This example rubric (pdf file) I created for peer evaluation in a team-based course contains six criteria as rows (class contributions, project contributions, quality of work, communication, equity, and professionalism) mapped across five levels of mastery as columns (unacceptable, emerging, marginally acceptable, accomplished, and exemplary).

Rubrics offer many advantages:

  • they add validity to assessment conclusions (through ensuring alignment of assessment criteria with intentions),
  • they add reliability to assessment,
  • they streamline the assessment process for instructors, TAs, and peer graders,
  • they communicate expectations to students, and
  • they more clearly and efficiently provide feedback to students and justification for the grading.

Finding / Creating rubrics

There are many resources available on creating and using rubrics:

How to use rubrics online

Rubrics are integrated in most LMSs and can be easily used with assignments.  When you have finished grading work with the rubric, the total score is automatically generated.  In many LMSs, if the work is part of a team submission, the same score (and rubric feedback) is automatically pushed to all students.  Guides to rubrics for most LMSs are readily available (e.g. for Canvas, Blackboard, D2L, and Moodle).

Questions to ask yourself when evaluating a rubric

  1. Do the rubric criteria align with the outcome(s) the rubric is intended to measure?
  2. Are the rubric criteria well-defined and distinct from each other?
  3. Does the highest rating in each rubric criterion describe excellence?
  4. Are the rubric rating levels clearly defined and distinct from each other?
  5. Are the rubric descriptors (i.e., the evidence the grader will look for when assessing the student work) clear, complete, and objective?


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