1. What is a rubric?

A rubric is a learning and assessment tool that articulates the expectations for assignments and performance tasks by listing criteria, and for each criteria, describing levels of quality (Andrade, 2000; Arter & Chappuis, 2007; Stiggins, 2001). Rubrics contain four essential features (Stevens & Levi, 2013):

(1) task description or a descriptive title of the task students are expected to produce or perform;
(2) a scale (and scoring) that describes the level of mastery (e.g., exceed expectation, meets expectation, doesn't meet expectation); 
(3) components/dimensions students are to attend to in completing the assignment/tasks (e.g., types of skills, knowledge, etc.); and 
(4) description of the performance quality (performance descriptor) of the components/dimensions at each level of mastery. 

A description of performance quality give students a clear idea about what must be done to demonstrate a certain level of mastery, understanding, or proficiency (i.e., "excellent" does xyz, "fair" does only xy or yz, "poor" does only x or y or z). Rubrics can be used for any assignment in a course, or for any way in which you ask students to demonstrate what they've learned. They can also be used to facilitate self and peer-reviews of student work.

A rubric can be analytic or holistic. An analytic rubric articulates different dimensions of performance and provides ratings for each dimension. A holistic rubric describes the overall characteristics of a performnace and provides a single score. Here are some pros and cons: 

2. Why You Should Consider Rubrics

Rubrics help instructors:

  • Provide students with feedback that is clear, directed and focused on ways to improve learning.
  • Demystify assignment expectations so students can focus on the work instead of guessing "what the teacher wants."
  • Adapt your approach to teaching aspects of a course based on thematic gaps in student learning that are easily identified by reviewing rubrics across a class.
  • Develop consistency in how you evaluate student learning across students and throughout a class.
  • Reduce time spent on grading; Increase time spent on teaching.

Rubrics help students:

  • Focus their efforts on completing assignments in line with clearly set expectations.
  • Self and Peer-reflect on their learning, making informed changes to achieve the desired learning level.

3. Getting Started with Rubrics

STEP 1: Clarify task/performance expectations. 

STEP 2: Identify the characteristics of student performances. What is it that students are supposed to demonstrate (skills, knowledge, behaviors, etc.)? [components/dimensions]

STEP 3: Identify how many mastery levels are needed for each performance component/dimension. Decide what score should be allocated for each level. [scale]

STEP 4: Describe performance characteristics of each component/dimension for each mastery level. [performance descriptor]

STEP 5: Pilot-test the rubric with a few sample papers and/or get feedback from your colleagues (and students) on the rubric. Revise the rubric. 

4. Rater Training and Calibrartion

In order to provide consistent and reliable rating, those who will be rating student work or performance need to be familiar with the rubric and need to interpret and apply the rubric in the same way. To calibrate ratings among raters, a rating orientation can be useful. 

Steps involved in rater training and calibration:

Step 1: Explain how to use the rubric. Familiarize faculty with the categories and levels. For each mastery level, provide one sample with annotations of the features found in student work that capture the rating criteria. 

Step 2: Provide two samples of student performance/work that represents different levels of mastery (mask the ratings). Have faculty rate them independently applying the rubric.

Step 3: Gather faculty’s ratings to show the agreement on the rating.

Step 4: Discuss scoring inconsistencies and reasons behind different ratings. Revise/clarify the rubric, if necessary.

Step 5: Once consensus is made on the ratings and when faculty feel comfortable with using the rubric, proceed with individual ratings of student work/performance. Provide faculty with rating sheet and explain the procedure (e.g., two raters for one sample).  

5. Rubric Examples 

Sample rubrics from Berkeley faculty: 

Other rubric samples: