Grading Rubrics

One way to improve teaching and learning is through the use of grading rubrics. For those not familiar with the concept of rubrics, a brief discussion will follow. For those who are familiar but would like some suggestions on how to write good ones, read the comments below and then look at some of the links to rubric outlines used by other teaching professionals in various fields.

What is a grading rubric?

A grading rubric is a guide for the evaluation of student papers, projects, or exams. Rubrics are particularly good for assignments that are creative in nature, such as essays or term papers, art projects, class participation, team projects, and oral presentations. A rubric makes the teacher’s expectations clear and identifies the grading criteria point by point. A rubric is typically presented in a table format, but it can be done as a bulleted list or even set up as a check-off sheet with room for comments.

Why use a grading rubric?

Students who complete work that is not clearly objective, work where there is not a simple right/wrong response, frequently suspect that their grades depend on totally subjective criteria: he/she likes/dislikes me, agrees/disagrees with my point-of-view, and so on. This is not true, of course, and a rubric provides a clear set of grading criteria for both the instructor and the student. It sets the parameters on which the student will be graded, which then prompts the student to focus on certain points. Rubrics also give teachers a sound basis for explaining grades to students. In some cases instructors may find it very valuable to have the students complete the rubric along with their assignment; then, the instructor completes the same rubric. This can be very enlightening for both the instructor and student as it frequently shows that what the instructor meant by a term or application is not what the student thought that term or application meant. The rubric helps the student understand what he or she does not know and needs to learn, and it helps the instructor understand how to focus his or her teaching so that the concepts and terms used in the course are clear.

How do I create a grading rubric?

There are only three elements that must be considered when creating a rubric:

the grading criteria,
the scale, and
the descriptions of the criteria.

However, it takes extensive planning to use these three criteria well. The instructor needs to be clear in his or her explanations of the grading standards. Just as important, the instructor needs to be sure of the assignment’s objective in the over-all goals of the course. Any assignment is useless if it does not lead students toward the successful completion of the course goals; therefore, the assignment must be pedagogically sound.

Once the rubric is designed, however, it can be easily updated and changed to meet the needs of particular assignment.

Download an example of a very basic rubric for an essay assignment. It was created in MS Word using the “Table” command, something you can easily do to create your own rubrics.