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Creating and Using Rubrics

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Developing and Using Rubrics

What Is a Rubric?

A rubric is a scoring tool used to assess student performance based upon a specific set of criteria. A rubric consists of the following three components:

  1. criteria: the characteristics of performance (e.g., thesis statement, organization, evidence)
  2. levels of performance: the degree to which a student is expected to meet a given criteria (e.g., exceeded expectations, met expectations, did not meet expectations)
  3. descriptors: specific explanation linked to each criteria and level of performance. the characteristics associated with each dimension (e.g., Bibliography contains very little information, All relevant information is included)

Rubrics can be used to provide feedback to students on diverse types of assignments, from papers, projects, and oral presentations to artistic performances and group projects.

Type of Rubrics

There are two common types of rubrics:

An analytic rubric articulates levels of performance for each criterion to allow the instructor to assess student performance on each criterion.  Thus using analytic rubric, the instructor is able to provide specific feedback on several dimensions of an assignment (e.g., thesis, organization, mechanics, etc.) along specific levels of performance (e.g., exceeded expectations, met expectations, did not meet expectations).

Advantages and Disadvantages of analytic rubrics:


  • Provide useful feedback on areas of strength and weakness.
  • Criterion can be weighted to reflect the relative importance of each dimension.


  • Takes more time to develop and apply than a holistic rubric.
  • Raters may not arrive at the same score if each point for every criterion is not well defined.

View an example of an analytic rubric.

A holistic rubric reflects a level of performance by assessing performance across multiple criteria as a whole.  Using a holistic rubric, the instructor is able to provide specific feedback on a defined, single dimension of an assignment (e.g., critical thinking) along specific levels of performance (e.g., exceeded expectations, met expectations, did not meet expectations). Click here to view examples of holistic rubrics.

Advantages and Disadvantages of holistic rubrics:


  • Saves time since the number of decisions rater make is minimized.
  • Can be applied consistently by trained raters, thus increasing reliability.


  • It may be difficult to select the best description especially when student work is at varying levels.
  • Criteria cannot be weighted.

View an example of a holistic rubric.

Developing Rubrics

Below are important points/questions to consider while constructing a rubric:

  1. What is the purpose of the rubric?
    It is very important to define the goals for which you intend to develop a rubric.  Do you intend to use it to grade students’ assignment/project or provide feedback or both? Is the rubric meant for a simple learning task or a major/complex project?
  2. What type of rubric do you prefer to use?
    The choice of a rubric type will depend on the nature of the assignment you need to score using a rubric.  Do you need to use an analytic rubric and, therefore, provide students feedback and detailed score, or do you need a holistic rubric to allow for broad feedback and overall sense of students’ performance?
  3. What are your criteria?
    The criteria in a rubric should reflect observable and measurable expectations relative to the task/assignment for which you are developing a rubric. Each criterion should be different from the other, and should be stated in a precise, unambiguous language.
  4. What is your rating scale?
    How will you determine various levels of student performance? How many rating scales do you plan to have in the rubric? Do the rating scales reflect the purpose of the rubric?
  5. Does your rubric have descriptors?
    Descriptors should be observable and measurable, and distinct from each other.  They should show "growth" or "progression" from lower levels of performance to higher levels of performance, and should be written in a consistent and parallel language across the scale.

Benefits of using rubrics

The benefits of using rubrics in courses can be observed by both instructors and students. According to Suskie (2009, p. 139), rubrics:

  • Help clarify vague, fuzzy goals.
  • Help students understand your expectations.
  • Help students self-improve.
  • Inspire better student performance.
  • Make scoring easier and faster.
  • Make scoring more accurate, unbiased, and consistent.
  • Improve feedback to students.
  • Reduce arguments with students.
  • Improve feedback to faculty and staff.

Rubric Resources

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) developed a set of rubrics for institutional-level use in evaluating and discussing student learning through a project called VALUE: Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education.  The rubrics were developed for the following outcome categories/themes.

A free online resource that helps create rubrics in a collaborative learning environment.

A free online website tool developed through the Advanced Learning Technologies (ALTEC) project at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning helps visitors create rubrics.

Rhodes, T. (2010). Assessing Outcomes and Improving Achievement: Tips and Tools for Using Rubrics. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
This AAC&U publication provides an overview of the VALUE project and the creation of 15 rubrics that were developed collaboratively between faculty and academic professionals.

Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. J. (2012). Introduction to rubrics. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
This book provides background on the purposes of rubrics and includes information on the use of rubrics in program assessment. Examples of rubrics are also provided.

Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. (2nd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
This book, in addition to providing other assessment tools, highlights examples of different rubrics used in courses such as rating scales, checklist rubrics, descriptive rubrics, and structured observation guides.