The Use of Rubrics in Grading

Rubrics are grading tools that provide a systematic method of scoring students based on detailed performance standards. Rubrics are most commonly used to grade presentations, papers, portfolios, speeches, and projects where the grading may otherwise be subjective. The primary purpose of the rubric is to standardize the assessment and provide more consistent grading. The rubric also serves as an effective communication tool between the faculty member and the students by outlining expectations in advance. Students will clearly know and understand the standards that are expected for each grading level. Therefore, the rubric is considered a learning tool that enables students to self-evaluate and improve the quality of their work as well as provides them feedback that will be helpful in future assignments. The consistency in expectations and grading, in addition to the student feedback, provides a higher quality academic experience for the student and creates a more positive learning environment.

Rubrics are typically created as a grid that describes several levels of quality for each aspect of the assignment that the faculty member plans to evaluate. The levels are often described using terms such as Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Needs Improvement. Often, numerical scores are associated with the quality levels and a total score can then be used to assign to a final grade. There are several types and variations of rubrics that can be viewed in Resources that are linked to this page. One common format (criterion-referenced, analytical) is shown below:

Sample Rubric for Grading Presentations

Assignment: Each student will make an 8-10 minute presentation covering the changes that have taken place in any community or city in the state over the past 50 years. The presentation should be more than just a chronological discussion of the changes and it should be centered around an overall thesis. Visual aids such as graphs, maps, charts, and photographs should be included.





Needs Work



Knowledge & Understanding

The presentation demonstrates a depth of historical understanding by using relevant and accurate detail to support the student's thesis.

Research is thorough and goes beyond what was presented in class or in the assigned texts.

The presentation uses knowledge which is generally accurate with only minor inaccuracies, and which is generally relevant to the student's thesis.

Research is adequate but does not go much beyond what was presented in class or in the assigned text.

The presentation uses little relevant or accurate information, not even that which was presented in class or in the assigned texts.

Little or no research is apparent.

Thinking & Inquiry

The presentation is centered around a thesis which shows a highly developed awareness of historiographic or social issues and a high level of conceptual ability.The presentation shows an analytical structure and a central thesis, but the analysis is not always fully developed and/or linked to the thesis.The presentation shows no analytical structure and no central thesis.

The presentation is imaginative and effective in conveying ideas to the audience.

The presenter responds effectively to audience reactions and questions

Presentation techniques used are effective in conveying main ideas, but a bit unimaginative.

Some questions from the audience remain unanswered.
The presentation fails to capture the interest of the audience and/or is confusing in what is to be communicated.

Use of visual aids

The presentation includes appropriate and easily understood visual aids which the presenter refers to and explains at appropriate moments in the presentation.The presentation includes appropriate visual aids, but these are too few, in a format that makes them difficult to use or understand, and/or the presenter does not refer to or explain them in the presentation.

The presentation includes no visual aids or visual aids that are inappropriate, and/or too small or messy to be understood. 

The presenter makes no mention of them in the presentation.

Presentation skills

The presenter speaks clearly and loudly enough to be heard, using eye contact, a lively tone, gestures, and body language to engage the audience.The presenter speaks clearly and loudly enough to be heard, but  tends to drone and/or fails to use eye contact, gestures, and body language consistently or effectively at times.

The presenter cannot be heard and/or speaks so unclearly that s/he cannot be understood.

There is no attempt to engage the audience through eye contact, gestures, or body language.

Overall Score:

Sample created from: Part Four: 3 Level Rubric: Description of Dimensions with all levels of performance described.  © Stevens, D. D. & Levi, A. J. (2005). Introduction to Rubrics. Sterling, VA: Stylus Press.

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Resource Links

Faculty Resources Quick Tips: Grading Rubrics - This link provides a detailed overview of the advantages of using grading rubrics and the types of rubrics that are typically used in grading. The website also outlines the steps involved in creating an effective rubric and includes a rubric checklist.

RubiStar - RubiStar is a free, online resource for quickly creating effective rubrics.

Creating Grading Rubrics for Writing Assignments - This website describes the process for developing a rubric to assess writing assignments and provides two sample rubrics as examples.

Rubrics for Assessment - A collection of grading rubrics for assessing portfolios, cooperative learning, research process/ report, PowerPoint, podcast, oral presentation, web page, blog, wiki, and other web 2.0 projects.

Teaching, Learning and Technology: Rubrics - This link provides more information regarding types of rubrics and the key features that an effective rubric should contain, as well as additional references and samples.

Rubrics - An Introduction - This video introduces the concept of using a rubric as a grading tool and goes over the basics of rubric construction. This is a good resource for faculty members who are new to rubrics.

Rubric Basics:

  • Identify the criteria that will be evaluated. Rubric criteria should be based on the desired learning outcomes and should be measurable.
  • Each rubric should only evaluate 3-10 criteria. Be sure the items are separate and clearly defined. Each criterion should focus on different skill set or knowledge area.
  • Use 3-5 quality levels to evaluate performance for rubric criteria.
  • Decide whether or not to weigh the criteria based on relative importance. Each criterion can be assigned a percentage of the total score if desired.
  • Provide specific, meaningful guidelines for evaluation of each rubric criterion. Levels of success and performance should be clearly communicated.
  • Create a table or grid that lists each criteria and the performance levels.
  • Use clear, concise language throughout. 
  • Use descriptive language that is action-oriented to make assigning a score easier for each criterion. Be certain that it will be easy to distinguish between performance levels when scoring.
  • Share the rubric with students and explain the criteria and the expectations.

Suggested Readings

  • Andrade, H. G. (2000). Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership, 57(5), 13-19.
  • Andrade, H. G. (2005). Teaching with rubrics: The good, the bad, and the ugly. College teaching, 53(1), 27-31.
  • Arter, J., & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using performance criteria for assessing and improving student performance. Corwin Press.
  • Mertler, C. A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(25), 1-10.
  • Stevens, D. D., & Levi, A. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Stylus Publishing, LLC..

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