Rubrics, Scoring & Grading

What are rubrics?
Why are rubrics important?
How to create useful rubrics for scoring...
Scoring & Grading


What are rubrics?

Rubrics are used to measure student learning for scoring and grading. Rubrics are systematic scoring methods that use pre-determined criteria. Rubrics help instructors assess student work more objectively and consistently.

There are two types of rubrics: holistic and analytical. In a holistic rubric, the entire performance is evaluated and scored as a whole . In an analytic rubric, the performance is evaluated and scored on several distinct criteria (example). Analytic rubrics are common for engineering assignments.

Why are rubrics important?

Rubrics help students consciously assess their own learning and performance. Using rubrics, instructors share scoring and grading criteria with students, which focuses students' attention during their initial learning and also when they interpret instructors' feedback.

Rubrics enhance fair scoring and grading. A valid rubric measures what it is intended to measure and increases the objectivity and reliability of scoring. Rubrics publicly represent the instructor's expectations for satisfactory achievement by making explicit:

  • what the main traits of an assignment are and how they contribute to the assignment's goal, and
  • exactly what level of performance is expected for satisfactory demonstration of each trait 1.

How to create useful rubrics for scoring...

If you are new to rubrics, you might appreciate an online introduction to rubrics and articles about developing and using rubrics in engineering and science education:

You may simply want to start with a checklist for designing rubrics:

Or you may want to see example rubrics:

Scoring & Grading

Scoring can be used to assign grades, but if assignments and scoring are carefully planned, scoring can also be used for assessment. A frequent question by faculty is:

We're already grading. Isn't that assessment?

It depends on how the information is used.

Grading is an integral part of outcomes assessment if the information gained while grading is "systematically used for department-level decision making" (Walvoord, 2004, p. 6). Grading is not part of outcomes assessment if it is performed exclusively for assigning grades. Even if the information gained while grading is used for improving teaching in that course, it is not part of assessment unless the information is also used to inform program-level decision making. Grading is focused on strengths and weaknesses in each individual student's learning for use by each student. Scoring for assessment is focused on patterns of strengths and weaknesses in a group of students for use by program-level decision makers. When grading is used for assessment, a second process of identifying patterns among students is necessary.

According to Walvoord (2004), the process of grading can be part of outcomes assessment if:

  • the student work (or performance) to be graded actually measures one or more intended learning outcomes
  • the evaluation criteria are written "in sufficient detail to identify students' strengths and weaknesses" (p. 14) and
  • information about patterns in student strengths and weaknesses is used systematically to inform program-level decisions.

Assigning grades

Below is a list of resources pertaining to grading. They do not address assessment for curricular improvement, but focus on the grading relationship between instructors and students.

  • Grading
    Concrete suggestions for grading tactics, minimizing student complaints, and evaluating grading policies.
  • Approaches to grading
    Brief descriptions of the two approaches to grading: relative grading (norm-referenced grading) and absolute grading (criterion-referenced grading).
  • Grading to enhance learning
    Concrete suggestions for giving constructive feedback to students: commenting on positive as well as negative aspects of their performance.
  • Grading fairly
    Concrete suggestions for approaches and tactics that foster fair grading.