Grading a large number of students or assignments can be challenging. One efficient method can be a grading bank or feedback database. While grading, an instructor can save comments that are regularly used for common issues in a text document or spreadsheet, and then the comments can be copied and pasted into feedback forms for other students, and then modified or personalized for the individual student.
Rubrics are a tool for criterion-based assessment, i.e., assessment is based on specified criteria or standards. This contrasts with normative assessment, where performance is ranked according to a statistical norm or standard like a bell curve. A rubric is a scoring guide based on specific criteria or categories for assessing students’ performance on a task or assignment. A rubric is a set of grading criteria for different areas of performance. It is often in table format, and it tells the students exactly what you expect. This can be provided when you give the assignment, and/or when you grade it. Instructors can mark on a paper or electronic form to indicate criteria that students have met well or have not achieved. This allows for more efficient grading for teachers, and clearer evaluations for students.
- For my KOTESOL presentation on rubrics, the slides can be accessed at this link.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Types of rubrices
- 3 Sample rubrics for different assignment types
- 4 Developing and using rubrics
- 5 See also
Traditional grading methods tend to follow the following approaches.
Holistic. Each student is graded holistically, without a clear breakdown of criteria or their importance. For students, this can seem subjective, and the rationale for a grade may seem unclear, or open to interpretation.
Comparative. Students are compared with each other and ranked. It may seem relatively easy to sort assignments into different piles or groups based on holistic quality comparisons. But this can also seem subjective or open to interpretation.
Objective (close-ended). Students are graded on responses to simple questions (multiple choice, binary choices like true/false) and passive recognition of contents. While this may be easy to grade, students do not engage with the materials and concepts, and merely demonstrate passive learning. The assignments are thus more about regurgitating knowledge, when more engaging assignments could be given to promote deeper thinking.
Open-ended tasks. Assignments with no clear answers can be more challenging, and can promote conceptual learning and engagement with the course contents. Thus, open-ended discussion questions, essay questions, written assignments, essays, essay exams, presentations, and discussion activities can be better tools for learning as well as assessment.
Grading major projects, essays, presentations, and other major assignments can be difficult, especially for more larger classes. Students expect and deserve fairly detailed feedback and justification for the grades they receive. Feedback should describe the various strengths and weaknesses of a student’s performance – exactly what s/he did well, and where s/he lacks or needs improvement. Feedback is also an opportunity to provide students specific advice on how to improve.
For complex assignments – semester projects, group projects, presentations, essays, and such, a well designed rubric can make grading more efficient, fair, and transparent.
1.2 General features
Well designed rubrics are those that meet the following criteria. # Measure stated objectives
- Use scales to evaluate and score
- Explanations for each category / scale dimension
- Work is evaluated according to how well standard is met
They will thus have the following outcomes, if designed properly.
- Objective standards or criteria
- Reducing grade competition
- Transparency & validity
- Clear expectations & learning objectives
- Grading efficiency
- Clearer, more meaningful feedback
Thus, rubrics should follow the following criteria for good design. This is essentially a rubric for a good rubric.
|Content-focused||Defines the desired content |
Indicates what characteristics / content has more / less importance
|Clear||Communicates expectations to students|
|Practical||Students can understand areas of comprehension & improvement; students can self-assess|
|Fair||Teachers consistently apply valid, reliable assessment criteria
|Goals||Rubric criteria are based on specific learning goals, not vaguely defined outcomes.|
The goals of an assignment should be specific and measurable. Rather than vague outcomes like “students will understand X,” specific, measurable goals are preferred. These would be specific, concrete goals, such as:
- Students can ask for directions in a new city.
- Students can do a job interview in English.
- Students can critique a new conspiracy theory, and know how to go about debunking it.
- Students can write a critical essay about a novella.
- Students can write a critical response to an article.
1.3 Potential pitfalls
Poorly designed rubric items can lead to the following problems.
- Can lead to “teaching to the test” or too much focus on “correct answers”
- Overly specific criteria can discourage students from thinking creatively
- Feedback at the end of project without guidance during the project can lead to (1) missed learning opportunities for students, and (2) teachers not being able to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching
Vague or inconsistent criteria can have the following negative effects.
- Undermining transparency, reliability, & validity
- Introducing bias
- Undermining, hingering, or not reflecting learning goals
Rubrics, if not well designed, may not provide info about:
- advanced comprehension
- application of knowledge
- what students would create outside of the rubric guidelines
- how students analyze
- how students evaluate their own knowledge
2 Types of rubrices
2.1 Simple scalar rubrics
A very simple kind of rubric lists basic categories for evaluation, and the instructor can grade it in various ways:
- Along a 10-point scale
- A 5-point or 7-point Likert scale, which has the advantage of providing a meaningful “average” midpoint
- Verbal designations like “poor/missing, average, satisfactory, good, excellent”
- It need not total 100 points for scoring / grading purposes
This simple kind of rubric might be better suited for shorter assignments, where less detailed feedback would be sufficient. Students can see how they place along the scale for each category, and the instructor can write short comments on the rubric form as well. If the points do not add up to 100, they can be scaled up, so for the sample below, a total of 50 points × 2 = 100. Any point value can be scaled up to 100 points (e.g., 35/40 = 87.5). Or you can have cumulative points, e.g., 20 points per assignment × 5 assignments = 100 points.
2.1.1 Rubric for short paper assignments
|Introduction & thesis||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|Organization, transitions||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|Evidence, support||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|Use of sources||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|Style, vocabulary, grammar||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
2.2 Holistic rubrics
Holistic rubrics can be ideal for minor assignments, for assignments where minor errors can be tolerated, and especially for tasks that are open-ended, for example where there is no definite correct answer.
2.2.1 Minor assignment rubric
Shorter writing assignments, quizzes, and in-class tasks might be graded along a 10-point scale like this (or the equivalent for whatever the total point value is).
|2||minimal effort||The student does not try to answer, indicates that s/he does not know, or offers minimal or no response.|
|4||incorrect answer; low effort||The student tries to answer but shows no evidence of making effort; may show serious misconceptions; does not use any information from readings or lectures (or from previous courses, knowledge, or experience) to formulate the response.|
|6||partially correct answer, but still incomplete; medium effort||Student shows some prior knowledge and uses some correct terminology, but does not provide a complete explanation for the answer. Student does not use appropriate information from the readings or lectures (or prior knowledge). Little evidence of original thought or analysis.|
|8||nearly correct; good effort||Student answers the question with few mistakes and with a complete explanation. Student incorporates information from the lectures and readings, and shows original thought or analysis.|
|10||correct; very high effort||Student provides a very detailed explanation, with information from outside the course materials, e.g., has obtained and incorporated more information from outside sources, and/or shows great creativity, original thought, or critical thinking skills.|
2.2.2 Participation grades
The following is designed as a rubric for participation grades. Such grades are given in some fields to encourage students to participate in class discussion or to exercise their language skills. For example, 10% of a students’ grade in the course might be based on participation. However, grading participation can be rather subjective. To explain participation grades, and to mitigate against the possibility of students taking issue with their participation grades, the following criteria can be used.
|Criterion||poor (C+/C or worse)||excellent (A/A+)|
|Attendance||Skipping class; often late; lacking or not providing a valid reason for absence or lateness; seemingly contrived or artificial excuses for absences or tardiness; overburdens prof. with questions about missed work or contents; fails to make up work in time||Always in class and on time; contacts prof. about legitimate reasons for repeated lateness or absence; finds out from fellow students about missed work and contents, contacting prof. when necessary; takes care of missed work responsibly|
|Attentiveness||Does not seem to pay attention to lectures; seems to be using devices or materials for non-class-related purposes; falls asleep in class; ...||Usually focused on the lecture, discussion and class activities; well prepared|
|Active participation||Not participating in group & class discussions or class activities; not answering questions or raising relevant questions in class; never talks to prof. after / outside of class about difficulties; or may try to dominate discussions unfairly, not allowing others a chance to participate||Regularly participates in class discussion and activities; asks and/or responds to questions in class; sees prof. about questions or difficulties after class; does not try to dominate discussions|
|Quality of contributions to class & group discussions||Likes to say things that are not relevant, tangential, or self-focused; no intelligent or insightful contributions; says little beyond what is obvious; shows little sign of critical thinking||Has intelligent, specific, insightful, focused comments or questions; comments or questions demonstrate critical thinking skills and creativity|
2.3 Analytical rubrics
Analytic rubrics provide more detailed feedback on different aspects and different categories of evaluation for an assignment. They are thus are more appropriate for more detailed assignments and major assignments.
A point-scale based rubric like the one below might work for shorter assignments with simpler criteria, like the one below. The following sample provides specific criteria and feedback for students, and ratings for each category and/or comments can be provided in the right column. For larger assignments, a more detailed scheme is needed, with more specific criteria, which can simplify grading. The first example of a simple rubric (from Stevens & Levi, 2005, p. 40) is designed for class presentations in a film interpretation course.
2.3.1 Rubrics for presentations
- Film presentations
The following rubric is for presentations on film interpretation, from Stevens and Levi (2012).
|Introduction||The introduction tells the audience exactly what to expect in terms of how the speaker feels about the movie, what theories and theoretical framework(s) s/he will introduce, and what conclusions s/he will draw.|
|Organization||The presentation is organized to create a logical argument and so that topics that need to be discussed together are presented together.|
|Context||The presenter discusses the main historical issues raised by the film and how other film scholars and historians have dealt with these issues, both with regard to this film and in general. The presenter explains where s/he stands on these issues, which theories s/he finds most useful, and why.|
|Evidence, support||The presenter includes sufficient, detailed examples from the film and other sources to support her/his analyses.|
|Analysis||The presenter uses her/his evidence to support a consistent, coherent analysis of how the film does or does not contribute to our understanding of the time period.|
|Presentation||The presenter spoke clearly, slowly, loudly enough to be heard, but not too loudly; used appropriate, effective gestures and body language; and maintained eye contact with the class. Audio-visual aids, if used, are technically sound (to prevent fumbling with equipment), appropriate, and referenced in the presentation.|
One could grade this with a point-scale system, e.g., with comments and a numerical ranking for each category in the right column cells. One could also assign a global, overall, holistic grade based on overall quality, rather than assigning points for each category, and simply use the rubric for feedback and general justification of the grade.
Instead of using a point scale, one could develop a more detailed rubric with criteria for different levels of performance. The rubric will define, e.g., what constitutes an A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, or C quality paper. On the next page is another sample rubric (by D. Stevens, 2010, from a conference handout). Evaluate the rubric in terms of the relevance and value of the criteria, clarity, fairness, and practicality in grading.
- Sociology presentations
The following rubric is for oral presentations in senior sociology classes, from Stevens and Levi (2012).
|Category||Poor – 1||Satisfactory – 2||Good – 3 Excellent – 4 Score|
|Content||Student does not have grasp of material;
information included does not support thesis in any way;
near absence of supporting materials
|There is a great deal of information that is not clearly connected to the subject of the presentation;
very little use of supporting materials
|Sufficient information that relates to subject of presentation;
many good points made, but there is an uneven balance;
a variety of supporting materials
|An abundance of material clearly related to subject of presentation;
points are clearly made and all evidence supports subject;
a variety of supporting materials
|Coherence & organization||Presentation is disjointed and choppy; does not flow; development of thesis is vague; no apparent logical order of presentation||Concept and ideas are loosely connected;
lacks clear transitions;
organization and flow are choppy
|Most information presented in a logical sequence;
generally well organized, but needs better transitions between ideas, and between media
|Subject is clearly stated and developed;
specific examples are appropriate;
conclusion is clear;
flows well with good transitions;
succinct and well organized
|Speaking skills||Inaudible or too loud;
no eye contact;
rate too slow or too fast;
speaker seemed uninterested;
incorrect use or mispronunciation of key terms;
little eye contact;
uneven rate of delivery;
little or no expression;
difficult to hear presentation
|Clear articulation; voice is clear;
uneven eye contact;
even rate of delivery;
most audience members can hear presentation
|Clear articulation and precise pronunciation of terms;
proper volume; steady rate of delivery;
good posture and eye contact; enthusiastic and confident
|Length of presenta-tion||Presentation much too long or short;
ten or more minutes above or below the allocated time
|Presentation is within six minutes of allocated time||Presentation is within four minutes of allocated time||Presentation is within two minutes of allocated time|
The above rubric is well detailed, and makes it possible to assign a grade by assessing it against various criteria. If a project consistently fits the criteria for ‘good’, then you can give it a certain grade. Or each category could be worth, say, 4 points, and you total up the points for each category. In this case, the maximum is 16 points, which could be scaled up to a score of 100 (e.g., 14/16=88).
However, the criteria for ‘length of presentation’ seem poorly written – no one should be allowed to exceed the allocated time by four to ten minutes; the time limits should be more strictly enforced. These could be better written, e.g., according to how well the presenters are able to cover the materials within the allocated time, how well they give adequate time to each major point or section, whether they finish too early, whether they have to end abruptly because they have run out of time, etc.
2.3.2 Weighted rubrics
In grading this way, you might find not want to give as much importance to some criteria as others. In the example above, ‘contents’ would be quite important, ‘speaking skills’ seems important but not as much as contents, but ‘length’ seems less important than the others. We can solve this by assigning different value or weights to different categories. Maybe for your projects, you want to evaluate students according to English ability (style, vocabulary, grammar, intelligibility), but in fairness to students in many fields of study, this should not be a major concern, certainly not as important as contents and coherence. So we might grade the rubric like this, where some categories have more points – more weight or value.
|Criteria||Poor – 2||Satisfactory – 4||Good – 6||Excellent – 8||Score|
|align=center Poor – 1||align=center Satisfactory – 2||align=center Good – 3||align=center Excellent – 4||align=center Score|
Or in a spreadsheet, you could use cell formulas to easily assign weights and calculate scores. Here, each category is ranked on a 10-point scale, and is then weighted.
|Contents||20% of grade||align=center 8||align=center .2*8|
|Coherence||20%||align=center 9||align=center .2*9|
|Evidence, support||20%||align=center 7||align=center .2*7|
|Argumentation||20%||align=center 7||align=center .2*7|
|Speaking skills||10%||align=center 9||align=center .1*9|
|Time management||10%||align=center 10||align=center .1*10|
|Total score||align=center||align=center 81|
Now look at the next example, a typical rubric for grading college English essays. How would you adapt this to grading your students’ essays?
3 Sample rubrics for different assignment types
3.1.1 Minor or short presentations
These criteria will vary depending on the particular assignment.
|# Creativity, originality|
|# Clear explanations|
|# Sufficient detail & contents|
|# Clear speaking & vocal delivery (including body language)|
|# Equal work & contributions by each member|
|# Media: good use of PPT, whiteboard, handouts, or other aids|
|# Feasibility or practicality of ideas|
|# Appropriate use of sources|
3.1.2 Major presentation / discussion tasks
These criteria will vary depending on the particular assignment; some of these may not apply.
||Rationale, goals, objectives – Clear rationale & explanation for the topic or project; clear objectives / goals and benefits
||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||General contents – Sufficient contents & preparation||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Support – Sufficient evidence, details & explanations of main points||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Effectiveness – Good, insightful analysis of the issue; good, unique, and well-thought ideas & explanations of how to deal with the problem; realistic, feasible proposals for the problem||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Clarity – Clear explanations, easy to understand follow; clear wording & vocabulary||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Organization – Well-organized and structured; concise, clear intro; good flow; flow indicated by intro, transition words & expressions; clear conclusion||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Speaking & vocal delivery – Clear, audible voices; clear speaking & delivery; good vocal volume & intonation; the presentation quality indicates adequate rehearsal and preparation; no excessive fillers, pauses (uh, um), pauses, unfinished sentences; good pace||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Interaction with audience – Eye contact, body language, etc.||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Visual aids – Good use of whiteboard, graphics, handouts, Prezi, or PPT||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||'Equal participationn – Each group member participates equally||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Value – Overall social, academic, practical, , and/or scientific value & benefit; creativity and originality||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
|#||Reception / effectiveness – Effective, informative, and persuasive presentation; clear and coherent logical arguments and development of arguments; positive reception from audience members||1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10|
3.2 Composition evaluation rubrics
This rubric may be helpful for evaluating and assessing essays.
3.2.1 Minor writing assignments
These criteria will vary depending on the particular assignment.
|# Organization and structure
|# General contents
|# Effort / other issues
3.2.2 Major written assignments
These criteria will vary depending on the particular assignment.
|Essay topic & general focus
|Intro & conclusion
|Support & specific details
|Style & wording
3.2.3 Detailed analytical rubric
The following is a rather detailed rubric for written assignments. This may be cumbersome for online or spreadsheet grading, but it can be photocopied and given to each student. Notes can be added, and key phrases can be marked by pen or highlighter to draw attention to problem areas.
|Features||low fail: D||narrow fail: C||adequate: B||high pass: A||organization:
Degree to which logical flow of ideas and explicitness of the plan are clear and connected
|No plan, insufficient length to ascertain organization||Attempted plan is noticeable, inadequate paragraphing||Plan is clear; some cohesion and coherence.||Plan is clear, most points connected; coherent; various uses of cohesive devices||Excellent us of format elements with all points connected and signified with transitions and/or other cohesive devices|
Degree to which the main points/ elements are elaborated and/ or explained by evidence and detailed reasons
|No support; insufficient length and/or extensive plagiarized passages, too short to evaluate||Attempted elaboration; maybe a list of related specifics; some plagiarism, inadequate length||Some points elaborated; some acknowledgement of sources||Most points elaborated; argument is developed in a clear and logical manner, characterized by adequate generalizations||All major points elaborated; argument is developed in a clear and logical manner with proper use of sources and leads to sophisticated generalizations and conclusions|
Use of grammatical conventions of standard English (usage, sentence construction, spelling, and ¶ format).
|Many errors, almost unreadable, confused meaning; problems with sentence construction; insufficient length to evaluate||Some major and many minor errors; confusion; sentence construction not mastered.||Developed; few major errors, some minor ones, meaning unimpaired; mastery of sentence construction||A few minor errors, but no more than one major error||No major errors, one or two minor errors; more sophisticated sentence constructions|
Degree to which the student has mastered register, sentence variation, and word/idiom use.
|Very poor, essential translation, no sentence variety||Limited range; frequent errors of word/idiom choice; form and usage that confuse meaning; some sentence variety.||Adequate range of word/idiom chice and sentence variety, some errors that do not obscure meaning||Few word form errors, occasionally misused words/idioms; appropriate register (tone, style); varied sentence structure||Sophisticated range; effective word/idiom choice and usage; word form mastery; appropriate register; varied sentence structure|
4 Developing and using rubrics
Instructors can create new rubrics in several ways. At first, this takes time, but over time, they can save a great deal of time in grading. The following are some useful steps for creating rubrics.
- Define specific learning outcomes (not general objectives)
- Define categories / criteria based on past feedback & issues
- Draw from feedback databases
- Work collaboratively on rubric design and implementation
- Focus on conceptual understanding, higher order learning
First, specific, measurable learning outcomes should be defined. Instead of a vague objective (“students will understand X”), more specific, concrete outcomes would be better, e.g.: Students can ask for directions in a new city; Students can do a job interview in English; or Students can write a critical response to an article.
The categories and criteria for a rubric and be developed based on past feedback given, issues observed with previous assignments, or typical issues that students have. The categories and criteria can also come a qualitative analysis or examination of past feedback given to students, especially from an instructor’s general feedback database or grading bank. Also, teachers can work collaboratively on brainstorming rubric categories and criteria. They can not only develop a rubric together, but they can try it out by evaluating some sample assignments, and then discussing how they rate the assignments with the new rubric. They can not only calibrate how they grade assignments, but they can also see the strengths and weaknesses of their rubric and then make improvements before using it on actual assignments.
Finally, assessments should emphasize conceptual knowledge and application of knowledge, not simply recalling facts, i.e., knowledge recall. More important is their comprehension of the materials, and it is even more important that students be able to do something with their comprehension, such as somehow applying, problem-solving, analyzing, synthesizing, critiquing, and evaluating in ways that reflect what they will do in their future studies, their careers, or their lives.
4.1 Further tips
- De-emphasize grammar and mechanics
For ESL/EFL learners, grading criteria like grammar and mechanics can seem intimidating, especially if they have experienced a good deal of stress in the past from standardized exam stress, prescriptive grammar instruction, grammar-translation instruction, and traditional style learning and grading. A rubric can de-emphasize grammar and mechanics by using a slightly more general criterion that sounds less intimidating, such as: * Style
- Expression / expressiveness
- Coherence / flow
- Split up larger categories
Instead of a weighted rubric (one criterion worth more than others), more important criteria can be split up into smaller rubric categories. In the examples in the previous section, the following were split up into two categories, so that all items in the rubric were of equal value.
- Presentations: Speaking → (1) Vocal delivery, and (2) Audience interaction
- Presentations: Contents → (1) General contents, and (2) Project details
- Essays: Contents → (1) General contents, and (2) Support & details
- Flexible categories
For major assignments, consider having one category that allows for some flexibility. It is possible for an assignment to excel in all areas, but suffer in one area that the rubric did not anticipate; or conversely, a student might excel in an unusual aspect that is not included in the rubric. Some leeway is desirable for such situations. The examples above have the following flexible categories.
- Presentations: Reception & effectiveness. This includes how well the presentation was received by audience members (as students fill out short evaluation forms of other student presenters), its persuasiveness and informativeness, and its overall effectiveness.
- Essays: Effectiveness. This includes the essay’s persuasiveness and informativeness, logic, and overall effectiveness.
- Various tasks: Effort. This is the students’ apparent effort in preparation, rehearsal, revision, attention to detail, research, etc.
- Rubric + grading bank
Finally, grading banks or feedback databases can also be used in conjunction with grading rubrics. A rubric can be done in a spreadsheet, along with a column for comments for each student. The spreadsheet can be used for emailing students feedback on rubric categories and comments via email merge. Similarly, a Google Form can be constructed based on rubric categories, and checkboxes for common issues or comments. Each rubric category corresponds to an item in the online form, with checkboxes; each checkbox contains a commonly used comment. The instructor can fill out a form for each student, tick the appropriate checkboxes, and submit the form, which goes into a spreadsheet, which the instructor can then use for grade records. From the spreadsheet, the instructor can create an email merge to send each student feedback for rubric criteria and comments.
5 See also
- Adapted from http://educ6040fall10.wikispaces.com (now defunct).
- Stevens, Dannelle D., & Levi, Antonia J. Introduction to Rubrics, 2nd Ed. (2012). Stylus Publishing
- Stevens, Dannelle D., & Levi, Antonia J. Introduction to Rubrics, 2nd Ed. (2012). Stylus Publishing
Stevens, Dannelle D., & Levi, Antonia J. Introduction to Rubrics, 2nd Ed. (2012). Stylus Publishing