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Getting Started with Grading Rubrics

A rubric is a tool for assessing student work, either individually or as a group. Rubrics are scales that define the criteria used in grading or assessment, clearly spelled out along a continuum (for example, poor to excellent, novice to expert). They can be classified in two general categories:

  • Analytic rubrics, which use separate scales for each learning outcome being assessed. For example, an analytic rubric used to assess a student’s essay may have separate scales for Organization, Use of Sources, Mechanics, and Clarity.
  • Holistic rubrics, which use a single scale to assess the assignment as a whole (that is, all learning objectives collectively). For example, a holistic rubric used to assess a student’s essay may have a scale ranging from a grade of F to A, with criteria specifying the defining characteristics of an A essay, a B essay, a C essay, and so on.

What are the benefits of using rubrics?

Rubrics can enhance both the effectiveness of grading and its efficiency. According to the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center at the University of California–Berkeley, rubrics enhance effectiveness (and student learning) by doing the following:

  • 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 enhance an instructor’s efficiency by doing the following:

  • 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

What is the process for using rubrics?

Using rubrics is an iterative, recursive process that begins with a thoughtful review of your learning objectives, proceeds to decision-making about what type of rubric to use and how to define its criteria, and continues on to applying the rubric and evaluating its effectiveness and suitability, making changes afterward to the rubric, your teaching methods, or both. This process is discussed in greater detail on this web site maintained by the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center at the University of California–Berkeley.

Additional Resources

The resources below contain a wealth of information about developing, using, and evaluating grading rubrics, along with numerous examples of rubrics from a variety of disciplines.

DePaul Teaching Commons: Rubrics
A thorough, clearly written discussion of rubrics, including three types of rubrics with examples of each (analytic, developmental, and holistic). Other sections cover creating and evaluating rubrics. The site also contains numerous examples of rubrics for assessing student performance in the following areas:

  • class participation
  • collaborative learning
  • critical thinking
  • e-Portfolios
  • experiential learning
  • online learning
  • undergraduate research
  • writing

Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center, University of California–Berkeley
A practical introduction to grading rubrics, with a comprehensive discussion of the process of creating and using rubrics. Also contains examples of rubric creation and practice exercises in creating and using rubrics.

VIDEO: Designing Rubrics Workshop

This workshop was presented at DePaul University by a regional expert in the design and use of rubrics, Dr. Ranfen Li from the University of Illinois at Chicago. (Running Time: 50 minutes)


Online Rubric Generators