Designing Rubrics

Design rubrics for consistency, clarity, and feedback

Rubrics help instructors:

  • Evaluate student work with consistency.
  • Make expectations for assignments clear.
  • Communicate students’ strengths and weaknesses.

A rubric supports consistency and fairness in grading as it standardizes the elements of an assignment that are graded. It shows the attainable tiers of performance.

Sharing rubrics along with assignments gives students up-front knowledge of the expectations for their work. Consider discussing the rubric prior to an assignment due date, to help students focus their efforts.

Ask students to pay attention to rubric scores and comments across multiple assignments. Students who notice patterns in areas of excellence or in areas for improvement are better able to make adjustments in learning strategies.

Examples of excellent rubrics appear at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) Value Rubric website. You will find detailed rubrics on analytical thinking, written communication, oral communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and more. Examples of rubrics from a College of IST course appear below in Figures 1–4.

Building rubrics in Canvas saves time in grading. You can integrate rubrics in Canvas with the SpeedGrader grading tool. This allows instructors and graders to show numerical scores and comments on the rubrics. For directions on how to create rubrics in Canvas, see rubrics in the Canvas Instructor’s Guide.

Choose a type of rubric for grading your assignment

There are four common types of rubrics, ranging from minimal guidance and feedback to detailed guidance and feedback. Use Checklist or Simple rubrics for low-stakes assignments; essay exam scoring guides; or small, rapid-feedback assignments done in class. Use Analytic or Holistic rubrics for larger assignments like research papers, group projects, lab reports, and presentations.

Checklist Rubrics

Checklists include the criteria for evaluation only. 

Figure 1 provides an example of a checklist rubric for an assignment where a student has to submit a portfolio. The only elements included in this rubric type are the criteria for evaluation—the things (skills, knowledge, etc.) that students must demonstrate. Students have either provided evidence or not. They earn points for how many things they have accomplished.

Checklist Rubric
Goal: Demonstrate depth of understanding the reading through application or analysis, with accuracy
Criteria Presence of Criteria (X/O)
Reported facts accurately  
Showed deep understanding through application or analysis  

Figure 1. Evaluation criterion for a checklist rubric describing the things needed to complete the assignment

Simple Rubrics

Simple Rubrics include criteria for evaluation and performance levels. 

The Simple Rubric shown in Figure 2 has two elements: a) criteria for evaluation and b) a scale to indicate the level of understanding or growth that is communicated by the student’s work. There is no further elaboration about how the grader determined the score that is awarded. This type of rubric is good for giving students some approximate feedback, but it wouldn’t be very helpful for final ratings of a large, significant project.

Simple Rubric
Goal: Demonstrate depth of understanding the reading through application or analysis, with accuracy
Criteria Performance Levels
Beginning Developing Accomplished
Accuracy 6 8 10
Depth of understanding 6 8 10

Figure 2. Simple Rubric contains information about the elements of the assignment being evaluated and an undefined 6 – 10 point scale.

Analytic Rubrics

Analytic Rubrics combine criteria for evaluation and levels of performance with a description.

Analytic Rubrics are the most common type of rubric used in the College of IST (see example in Figure 3). Similar to the Checklist and Simple rubrics, the Analytic rubric includes a) the criteria for evaluation; and like the Simple rubric, the Detailed rubric includes b) a scale to indicate performance levels. In addition, the Detailed rubric also has a description of each performance level. The student and the grader know what it means to get a low, middle, or high rating on each criterion, because there is a description in each cell.

Analytic Rubric
Goal: Demonstrate depth of understanding the reading through application or analysis, with accuracy
Criteria Performance Levels
6: Beginning 8: Developing 10: Accomplished
Accuracy Somewhat accurate Mostly accurate Completely accurate
Depth of understanding Basis knowledge of ideas Able to apply ideas Mature analysis of ideas

Figure 3. Analytic Rubric contains information about the elements of the assignment being evaluated, a scale for evaluation, and a description associated with each point along the scale.

Holistic Rubrics

Holistic Rubrics provide a scale of possible performance levels, along with a holistic description of the performance at that level.

The Holistic Rubric (see Figure 4) is similar to the Analytic rubric. Both include criteria for evaluation, a scale to indicate performance levels, and a description of each performance level. However, whereas the Analytic rubric separates out each evaluation criterion, the Holistic rubric lists all criteria together for a particular point on the performance scale, providing a holistic description of what it means to achieve the highest mark, middle marks, and the lowest mark.

Holistic Rubric
Goal: Demonstrate depth of understanding the reading through application or analysis, with accuracy
Criteria Performance Levels
Demonstrated deep understanding through mature analysis of ideas, intriguing application of concepts, and completely accurate knowledge Accomplished (18-20 points)
Demonstrated developing comprehension through clear application of ideas and mostly accurate knowledge Developing (16-17 points)
Demonstrated basic, beginner level comprehension through clear explanations of ideas and mostly accurate knowledge Beginning (12-15 points)

Figure 4. Holistic Rubric contains a holistic, summary description of the achievement that was reached at each of the points of the performance scale.