A rubric is a way to grade student work. It is a description of the assignment or task laid out on a grid. Rubrics can be created in a variety of forms and levels of complexity, but they all:

  • Focus on measuring a stated objective
  • Use a range to rate performance
  • Contain specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met
    screenshot of a rubric with the parts labeled

    A rubric has 4 basic parts:

    1. Task or Assignment Description - describes the assignment/ projects etc.
    2. Criteria - categories of student behavior being measured
    3. Levels - degrees of completion, success, performances, etc.
    4. Standards for Performance - describe the intersection of levels and criteria

    Holistic Rubric

    A holistic rubric involves one single scale (holistic) rating with a single score for an entire product or performance based on an overall impression. These are useful for summative assessments where an overall performance rating is needed, for example, portfolios. With a holistic rubric the rater assigns a single score (usually on a 1 to 4 or 1 to 6 point scale) based on an overall judgment of the student work. The rater matches an entire piece of student work to a single description on the scale. There are advantages and disadvantages to holistic rubrics:

    Advantages Disadvantages
    • Emphasis on what the student is able to demonstrate, rather than what they cannot do.
    • Saves time by minimizing the number of decisions faculty make.
    • Can be applied consistently by raters increasing reliability.
    • Does not provide specific feedback for improvement.
    • When student work is at varying levels spanning the criteria points it can be difficult to select the single best description.
    • Criteria cannot be weighted.

    Analytical Rubric

    An analytical rubric divides a project or performance into essential elements that are judged separately. Analytical rubrics are usually more useful for day-to-day classroom use since they provide more detailed and precise feedback to the student. There are advantages and disadvantages to analytical rubrics:

    Advantages Disadvantages
    • Provide useful feedback on areas of strength and weakness.
    • Criterion can be weighted to reflect the relative importance of each dimension.
    • Takes more time to create and use than a holistic rubric.
    • Unless each point for each criterion is well-defined raters may not arrive at the same score.


    Rubrics are powerful tools for both teaching and assessment. They can improve student performance by making faculty expectations clear and showing students how to meet those expectations. Rubrics provide faculty with an effective means of learning-centered feedback and evaluation of student work.

    As instructional tools, rubrics enable students to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their work and learning. They can increase student metacognition by helping students identify and solve issues with their own or other students’ work, resulting in improved student outcomes. As assessment tools, rubrics enable faculty to provide detailed and  informative evaluations of students’ work.

    Rubrics for students:

    • Increases sense of responsibility and learning through better, more timely feedback
    • Increases motivation because of clear expectations
    • Guides students to be more independent learners, monitor their own work better: increases metacognition
    • Improves communication with tutors, writing center, peers

    Rubrics for faculty:

    • Reduces grading time
    • Provides a means for consistency in grading
    • Allows assessment to be more objective and consistent.
    • Requires less time in class describing a complex assignment which will lead to fewer office visits by students and fewer student complaints

    Other Advantages of Rubrics:

    • Faculty are able to see where students are having issues
    • Help clarify faculty’s criteria in specific terms. They clearly communicate how students’ work will be evaluated and what is expected.
    • Can also be used as a guide to assess peer performance.
    • Provide greater clarity for faculty.
    • Provide faculty and student benchmarks to measure progress
    1. Define your assignment or project (task description) Clearly define the assignment, including the topic, the process that students will work through, and the product they are expected to create.
    2. Define the key criteria that you are interested in such as coherence, content, and organization for a writing assignment (left column) For example, what do you mean by coherence? What does coherent writing look like? These are the observable and measurable characteristics of the task.
    3. Decide what type of rubric to use (holistic or analytical) Choose a type of rubric based on the assignment and what you are interested in evaluating.
    4. Establish levels and develop a scoring scale (top row) Determine how many performance levels you want to use (usually 3 or 4). These can be a grade (A - D/F) or descriptive levels (outstanding, acceptable, not acceptable, etc.). Whichever you choose, focus on positive, non-judgmental terms (mastery, partial mastery, progressing, emerging, etc.). Other performance level examples include:
      • Proficient, intermediate, novice
      • exemplary, competent, beginning
      • exemplary, competent, not yet competent
      • excellent, good, developing
      • 1, 2, 3
      • strong, satisfactory, marginal

      Be sure to clearly define the differences between the score levels. Additionally, levels should be consistent across all key criteria for an analytic rubric. For example, a score of 4 for one area should be comparable to a score of 4 in another area.

    5. Establish clear standards for performance and define for each criteria (cells) Defining the standards for performance in analytical rubrics can be challenging. Try this technique: After you write your first paragraph of the highest level, circle the words in that paragraph that can vary. These words will be the ones that you will change as you write the lower-level performances. Avoid relying on comparative language when distinguishing standards across performance levels. For example, don’t define the highest level of performance as ‘thorough and accurate’ and the middle level as ‘less thorough and less accurate’. Find qualities and descriptors that are unique to each performance standard. Here is a list of concept words that convey various degree of performance:
    • Depth... Breadth... Quality... Scope... Extent... Complexity... Degrees... Accuracy
    • Presence to absence
    • Complete to incomplete
    • Many to some to none
    • Major to minor
    • Consistent to inconsistent
    • Frequency: always to generally to sometimes to rarely