Grading Rubrics

A rubric is a systematic scoring guideline to evaluate students' performance through the use of a detailed description of performance standards. Rubrics are typically employed when a judgment of quality is required.  Grading rubrics can be used to evaluate a broad range of subjects and activities (including papers, speeches, problem solutions, portfolios, essays, and any other subjective task).  Typically, rubrics specify the performance expected for several levels of quality.  These levels of quality may be ratings (e.g., Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement) or numerical scores (e.g., 4, 3, 2, 1) which are then utilized to determine an alphanumeric grade (e.g., A, B, C, etc.).  Rubrics provide an objective and consistent way to assess subjective tasks, indicate what is expected, and highlight how performance will be evaluated.  Whether a scoring rubric is an appropriate evaluation technique is dependent upon the purpose of the assessment.

Advantages of Implementing Grading Rubrics:

The advantages of grading rubrics can be broken down into three broad categories: improving student learning, facilitating communication between teacher and students, and enhancing academic quality.

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Types of Grading Rubrics

When creating grading rubrics, one must select the type of grading scale from which to base the rubric.  The three main grading scales are:

  • Criterion-referenced - performance levels based independently on preset criteria

  • Norm-referenced - performance levels based on comparative ranking in the class

  • Self-referenced - performance levels based on individual student expectation

Generally, a criterion-reference scale is preferred as it reduces student competition and provides a consistent baseline of expected performance.

Several different types of grading rubrics may be used; the selection of the rubric is based on the purpose of the evaluation.  The following table describes the differences between analytic and holistic rubrics and between task specific and general rubrics.

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Steps in Rubric Development

  • Identify important criteria based on learning objectives

  • Determine whether criteria are best assessed through holistic or analytical scoring rubrics

    • If an analytic scoring rubric is created, then each criterion is considered separately and separate descriptive scoring schemes are created for each evaluation factor.

    • For holistic scoring rubrics, the collection of criteria is considered throughout the construction of each level of the scoring rubric and the result is a single descriptive scoring scheme.

  • Weigh criteria based on their relative importance

  • Describe levels of success, proficient performance or performance expectationsCreate a grid or table reflecting criteria and levels of performance.

    • This includes a determination of the number of scoring levels that are adequate for differentiating between various student performance.

Tips for Rubric Development

  • Utilize a criterion-referenced rubric that provides specific criteria for acceptable performance

  • Criteria and scoring should be meaningful, clear, and concise

  • Be sure that the rubric clearly and directly relates to learning outcomes

  • Keep it short and simple using brief statements and phrases

  • Students must be fully aware of the content and meaning of the grading rubric

  • Each rubric item should focus on a different skill or knowledge area

  • Include evaluations of both the product and process of learning

  • Focus on how students develop and express their learning

  • Evaluate only measurable criteria

  • Ideally, the entire rubric should fit on one sheet of paper

  • Reevaluate the rubric to ensure it provides useful information to both instructor and student

  • Limit the number of criteria included in the rubric (ten ranked items is usually the upper limit)

  • Criteria should be specific and descriptive (avoid vague descriptions like "clear," "organized," and "interesting")

  • Include a range of performance levels with a descriptive meaning of the required performance for each level

  • Each score category should be defined using descriptions of the work rather then subjective judgments

  • Include space for comments either within or at the conclusion of the rubric

  • It is better to have a few meaningful score categories then to have many score categories that are difficult or impossible to distinguish

Checklist for Effective Rubrics:

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Questions concerning the Park University CETL Quick Tips website should be directed to cetl@park.edu.