Rubrics: Benefits for Faculty and Students
This guest post is by Amy Pinkerton, Senior Instructional Designer in the Center for Teaching and Learning.
What is a rubric?
There are different types of rubrics (Gonzalez, 2014) however, they each serve the same purpose, “to promote the consistent application of learning expectations, learning objectives, or learning standards in the classroom, or to measure their attainment against a consistent set of criteria,” (Using Rubrics, n.d.).
Benefits of Using Rubrics
Feedback is Essential to Learning
Students need feedback to identify what they are doing well and what they need to do to improve their academic performance and achieve their learning goals. Rubrics are useful tools that faculty and teaching assistants (TA) can use to give their students clear and consistent feedback.
Alignment between Assessments and Learning Objectives
When using rubrics, faculty must consider what student behaviors and competencies they want to assess and how they will be observed and measured. Rubrics that are built around the learning objectives of a course ensure that the learning objectives are being assessed in a valid way.
Impartial and Consistent Grading
Rubrics allow consistent assessment through reproducible scoring by both a single grader across multiple students and by multiple graders (e.g., a faculty and a team of TAs) across multiple students (Rubric Reliability, n.d.; Rubric Introduction, n.d.).
Grading Time Management
A well-designed rubric can reduce time spent on grading. Although rubrics require an initial time investment to design, once they are developed, they can then be reused term after term. As educator Heidi Goodrich Andrade explains, “If I were to simply circle boxes on a rubric and give it back with an assignment, I would still be providing more feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of the work than if I had just assigned a letter grade, and it would not have taken me any longer,” (Macro Learning, 2022). Rubrics can also save time by reducing grading disputes by making assessment criteria explicit to both graders and students.
Clear Expectations and Motivation
Rubrics can inspire better student performance. Rubrics that are given to students when they are first introduced to an assessment (i.e., assignment instructions) identify exactly what faculty are looking for in the assessment and can be used by students to focus their academic efforts and self-assess their work before their assessment submission. This knowledge will motivate some students to aim for the identified standards and may help students with the overall assessment process (Suskie, 2018; Macro Learning, 2022).
Designing a Rubric
Basic Parts of a Rubric
- Task Description: the instructions for the assessment. These are included on the rubric to ensure that the assessment instructions align with the way that the students are being assessed.
- Criteria: the learning objectives of the assignment and other knowledge or skills that students are expected to demonstrate during the assessment.
- Levels of Performance: the descriptions for each criterion on a scale; typically broken across 3-5 Likert Scale levels.
- Score and Comments: the value score earned by the student, plus extra space for additional comments by the grader.
Basic Steps to Design a Rubric
- Compose a measurable learning objective(s) or goal for the assessment.
- Define the criteria of the assessment based on the learning objective(s).
- Select the type of rubric based on the criteria. The rubric is holistic if all the criteria can be defined in a single statement. The rubric is analytical if the criteria need to be defined on multiple levels.
- Describe acceptable and unacceptable levels of performance for each component and their relative evaluation score.
- Once finalized, use the CoursePlus Peer Assessment (PA) tool on your course website to create an online rubric by selecting the “TA/Faculty” type of assessment in the PA setup options. The PA tool also has sample rubrics to help faculty get started.
Please reach out to a CTL instructional designer for more information about how to incorporate rubrics into your grading practice.
Advantages and disadvantages of rubrics. (2022, June 23). Marco Learning.
Benefits of rubrics. (n.d.). Southwestern University.
Gonzalez, J. (2014, August). Know your terms: Holistic, analytic, and single-point rubrics. Cult of Pedagogy.
Rubric Introduction. (n.d.). University of Illinois Springfield.
Rubric Reliability. (n.d.). The Ohio State University Office of Teaching and Learning. (n.d.).
Suskie, L. (2018). 10 Benefits of Well-Crafted Rubrics. Wiley.
Using Rubrics. (n.d.). Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation.