Main navigation, articulating your assessment values.
Reading, commenting on, and then assigning a grade to a piece of student writing requires intense attention and difficult judgment calls. Some faculty dread “the stack.” Students may share the faculty’s dim view of writing assessment, perceiving it as highly subjective. They wonder why one faculty member values evidence and correctness before all else, while another seeks a vaguely defined originality.
Writing rubrics can help address the concerns of both faculty and students by making writing assessment more efficient, consistent, and public. Whether it is called a grading rubric, a grading sheet, or a scoring guide, a writing assignment rubric lists criteria by which the writing is graded.
Why create a writing rubric?
- It makes your tacit rhetorical knowledge explicit
- It articulates community- and discipline-specific standards of excellence
- It links the grade you give the assignment to the criteria
- It can make your grading more efficient, consistent, and fair as you can read and comment with your criteria in mind
- It can help you reverse engineer your course: once you have the rubrics created, you can align your readings, activities, and lectures with the rubrics to set your students up for success
- It can help your students produce writing that you look forward to reading
How to create a writing rubric
Create a rubric at the same time you create the assignment. It will help you explain to the students what your goals are for the assignment.
- Consider your purpose: do you need a rubric that addresses the standards for all the writing in the course? Or do you need to address the writing requirements and standards for just one assignment? Task-specific rubrics are written to help teachers assess individual assignments or genres, whereas generic rubrics are written to help teachers assess multiple assignments.
- Begin by listing the important qualities of the writing that will be produced in response to a particular assignment. It may be helpful to have several examples of excellent versions of the assignment in front of you: what writing elements do they all have in common? Among other things, these may include features of the argument, such as a main claim or thesis; use and presentation of sources, including visuals; and formatting guidelines such as the requirement of a works cited.
- Then consider how the criteria will be weighted in grading. Perhaps all criteria are equally important, or perhaps there are two or three that all students must achieve to earn a passing grade. Decide what best fits the class and requirements of the assignment.
Consider involving students in Steps 2 and 3. A class session devoted to developing a rubric can provoke many important discussions about the ways the features of the language serve the purpose of the writing. And when students themselves work to describe the writing they are expected to produce, they are more likely to achieve it.
At this point, you will need to decide if you want to create a holistic or an analytic rubric. There is much debate about these two approaches to assessment.
Comparing Holistic and Analytic Rubrics
Holistic scoring .
Holistic scoring aims to rate overall proficiency in a given student writing sample. It is often used in large-scale writing program assessment and impromptu classroom writing for diagnostic purposes.
General tenets to holistic scoring:
- Responding to drafts is part of evaluation
- Responses do not focus on grammar and mechanics during drafting and there is little correction
- Marginal comments are kept to 2-3 per page with summative comments at end
- End commentary attends to students’ overall performance across learning objectives as articulated in the assignment
- Response language aims to foster students’ self-assessment
Holistic rubrics emphasize what students do well and generally increase efficiency; they may also be more valid because scoring includes authentic, personal reaction of the reader. But holistic sores won’t tell a student how they’ve progressed relative to previous assignments and may be rater-dependent, reducing reliability. (For a summary of advantages and disadvantages of holistic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 116.)
Here is an example of a partial holistic rubric:
Summary meets all the criteria. The writer understands the article thoroughly. The main points in the article appear in the summary with all main points proportionately developed. The summary should be as comprehensive as possible and should be as comprehensive as possible and should read smoothly, with appropriate transitions between ideas. Sentences should be clear, without vagueness or ambiguity and without grammatical or mechanical errors.
A complete holistic rubric for a research paper (authored by Jonah Willihnganz) can be downloaded here.
Analytic scoring makes explicit the contribution to the final grade of each element of writing. For example, an instructor may choose to give 30 points for an essay whose ideas are sufficiently complex, that marshals good reasons in support of a thesis, and whose argument is logical; and 20 points for well-constructed sentences and careful copy editing.
General tenets to analytic scoring:
- Reflect emphases in your teaching and communicate the learning goals for the course
- Emphasize student performance across criterion, which are established as central to the assignment in advance, usually on an assignment sheet
- Typically take a quantitative approach, providing a scaled set of points for each criterion
- Make the analytic framework available to students before they write
Advantages of an analytic rubric include ease of training raters and improved reliability. Meanwhile, writers often can more easily diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of their work. But analytic rubrics can be time-consuming to produce, and raters may judge the writing holistically anyway. Moreover, many readers believe that writing traits cannot be separated. (For a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of analytic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 115.)
For example, a partial analytic rubric for a single trait, “addresses a significant issue”:
- Excellent: Elegantly establishes the current problem, why it matters, to whom
- Above Average: Identifies the problem; explains why it matters and to whom
- Competent: Describes topic but relevance unclear or cursory
- Developing: Unclear issue and relevance
A complete analytic rubric for a research paper can be downloaded here. In WIM courses, this language should be revised to name specific disciplinary conventions.
Whichever type of rubric you write, your goal is to avoid pushing students into prescriptive formulas and limiting thinking (e.g., “each paragraph has five sentences”). By carefully describing the writing you want to read, you give students a clear target, and, as Ed White puts it, “describe the ongoing work of the class” (75).
Writing rubrics contribute meaningfully to the teaching of writing. Think of them as a coaching aide. In class and in conferences, you can use the language of the rubric to help you move past generic statements about what makes good writing good to statements about what constitutes success on the assignment and in the genre or discourse community. The rubric articulates what you are asking students to produce on the page; once that work is accomplished, you can turn your attention to explaining how students can achieve it.
Becker, Anthony. “Examining Rubrics Used to Measure Writing Performance in U.S. Intensive English Programs.” The CATESOL Journal 22.1 (2010/2011):113-30. Web.
White, Edward M. Teaching and Assessing Writing . Proquest Info and Learning, 1985. Print.
CCCC Committee on Assessment. “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement.” November 2006 (Revised March 2009). Conference on College Composition and Communication. Web.
Gallagher, Chris W. “Assess Locally, Validate Globally: Heuristics for Validating Local Writing Assessments.” Writing Program Administration 34.1 (2010): 10-32. Web.
Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. Print.
Kelly-Reilly, Diane, and Peggy O’Neil, eds. Journal of Writing Assessment. Web.
McKee, Heidi A., and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss DeVoss, Eds. Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. Web.
O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot. A Guide to College Writing Assessment . Logan: Utah State UP, 2009. Print.
Sommers, Nancy. Responding to Student Writers . Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.
Straub, Richard. “Responding, Really Responding to Other Students’ Writing.” The Subject is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students. Ed. Wendy Bishop. Boynton/Cook, 1999. Web.
White, Edward M., and Cassie A. Wright. Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide . 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. Print.
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Examples of Rubric Creation
Creating a rubric takes time and requires thought and experimentation. Here you can see the steps used to create two kinds of rubric: one for problems in a physics exam for a small, upper-division physics course, and another for an essay assignment in a large, lower-division sociology course.
In STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), assignments tend to be analytical and problem-based. Holistic rubrics can be an efficient, consistent, and fair way to grade a problem set. An analytical rubric often gives a more clear picture of what a student should direct their future learning efforts on. Since holistic rubrics try to label overall understanding, they can lead to more regrade requests when compared to analytical rubric with more explicit criteria. When starting to grade a problem, it is important to think about the relevant conceptual ingredients in the solution. Then look at a sample of student work to get a feel for student mistakes. Decide what rubric you will use (e.g., holistic or analytic, and how many points). Apply the holistic rubric by marking comments and sorting the students’ assignments into stacks (e.g., five stacks if using a five-point scale). Finally, check the stacks for consistency and mark the scores. The following is a sample homework problem from a UC Berkeley Physics Department undergraduate course in mechanics.
Solve for position and speed along a projectile’s trajectory.
Desired Traits: Conceptual Elements Needed for the Solution
- Decompose motion into vertical and horizontal axes.
- Identify that the maximum height occurs when the vertical velocity is 0.
- Apply kinematics equation with g as the acceleration to solve for the time and height.
- Evaluate the numerical expression.
A note on analytic rubrics: If you decide you feel more comfortable grading with an analytic rubric, you can assign a point value to each concept. The drawback to this method is that it can sometimes unfairly penalize a student who has a good understanding of the problem but makes a lot of minor errors. Because the analytic method tends to have many more parts, the method can take quite a bit more time to apply. In the end, your analytic rubric should give results that agree with the common-sense assessment of how well the student understood the problem. This sense is well captured by the holistic method.
A holistic rubric, closely based on a rubric by Bruce Birkett and Andrew Elby:
[a] This policy especially makes sense on exam problems, for which students are under time pressure and are more likely to make harmless algebraic mistakes. It would also be reasonable to have stricter standards for homework problems.
The following is an analytic rubric that takes the desired traits of the solution and assigns point values to each of the components. Note that the relative point values should reflect the importance in the overall problem. For example, the steps of the problem solving should be worth more than the final numerical value of the solution. This rubric also provides clarity for where students are lacking in their current understanding of the problem.
Try to avoid penalizing multiple times for the same mistake by choosing your evaluation criteria to be related to distinct learning outcomes. In designing your rubric, you can decide how finely to evaluate each component. Having more possible point values on your rubric can give more detailed feedback on a student’s performance, though it typically takes more time for the grader to assess.
Of course, problems can, and often do, feature the use of multiple learning outcomes in tandem. When a mistake could be assigned to multiple criteria, it is advisable to check that the overall problem grade is reasonable with the student’s mastery of the problem. Not having to decide how particular mistakes should be deducted from the analytic rubric is one advantage of the holistic rubric. When designing problems, it can be very beneficial for students not to have problems with several subparts that rely on prior answers. These tend to disproportionately skew the grades of students who miss an ingredient early on. When possible, consider making independent problems for testing different learning outcomes.
Sociology Research Paper
An introductory-level, large-lecture course is a difficult setting for managing a student research assignment. With the assistance of an instructional support team that included a GSI teaching consultant and a UC Berkeley librarian [b] , sociology lecturer Mary Kelsey developed the following assignment:
This was a lengthy and complex assignment worth a substantial portion of the course grade. Since the class was very large, the instructor wanted to minimize the effort it would take her GSIs to grade the papers in a manner consistent with the assignment’s learning objectives. For these reasons Dr. Kelsey and the instructional team gave a lot of forethought to crafting a detailed grading rubric.
- Use and interpretation of data
- Reflection on personal experiences
- Application of course readings and materials
- Organization, writing, and mechanics
For this assignment, the instructional team decided to grade each trait individually because there seemed to be too many independent variables to grade holistically. They could have used a five-point scale, a three-point scale, or a descriptive analytic scale. The choice depended on the complexity of the assignment and the kind of information they wanted to convey to students about their work.
Below are three of the analytic rubrics they considered for the Argument trait and a holistic rubric for all the traits together. Lastly you will find the entire analytic rubric, for all five desired traits, that was finally used for the assignment. Which would you choose, and why?
Three-point scale, simplified three-point scale, numbers replaced with descriptive terms.
For some assignments, you may choose to use a holistic rubric, or one scale for the whole assignment. This type of rubric is particularly useful when the variables you want to assess just cannot be usefully separated. We chose not to use a holistic rubric for this assignment because we wanted to be able to grade each trait separately, but we’ve completed a holistic version here for comparative purposes.
Final Analytic Rubric
This is the rubric the instructor finally decided to use. It rates five major traits, each on a five-point scale. This allowed for fine but clear distinctions in evaluating the students’ final papers.
[b] These materials were developed during UC Berkeley’s 2005–2006 Mellon Library/Faculty Fellowship for Undergraduate Research program. M embers of the instructional team who worked with Lecturer Kelsey in developing the grading rubric included Susan H askell-Khan, a GSI Center teaching consultant and doctoral candidate in history, and Sarah McDaniel, a teaching librarian with the Doe/Moffitt Libraries.
Teaching excellence & educational innovation, creating and using rubrics.
A rubric is a scoring tool that explicitly describes the instructor’s performance expectations for an assignment or piece of work. A rubric identifies:
- criteria: the aspects of performance (e.g., argument, evidence, clarity) that will be assessed
- descriptors: the characteristics associated with each dimension (e.g., argument is demonstrable and original, evidence is diverse and compelling)
- performance levels: a rating scale that identifies students’ level of mastery within each criterion
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.
Benefitting from Rubrics
- reduce the time spent grading by allowing instructors to refer to a substantive description without writing long comments
- help instructors more clearly identify strengths and weaknesses across an entire class and adjust their instruction appropriately
- help to ensure consistency across time and across graders
- reduce the uncertainty which can accompany grading
- discourage complaints about grades
- understand instructors’ expectations and standards
- use instructor feedback to improve their performance
- monitor and assess their progress as they work towards clearly indicated goals
- recognize their strengths and weaknesses and direct their efforts accordingly
Examples of Rubrics
Here we are providing a sample set of rubrics designed by faculty at Carnegie Mellon and other institutions. Although your particular field of study or type of assessment may not be represented, viewing a rubric that is designed for a similar assessment may give you ideas for the kinds of criteria, descriptions, and performance levels you use on your own rubric.
- Example 1: Philosophy Paper This rubric was designed for student papers in a range of courses in philosophy (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 2: Psychology Assignment Short, concept application homework assignment in cognitive psychology (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 3: Anthropology Writing Assignments This rubric was designed for a series of short writing assignments in anthropology (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 4: History Research Paper . This rubric was designed for essays and research papers in history (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 1: Capstone Project in Design This rubric describes the components and standards of performance from the research phase to the final presentation for a senior capstone project in design (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 2: Engineering Design Project This rubric describes performance standards for three aspects of a team project: research and design, communication, and team work.
- Example 1: Oral Exam This rubric describes a set of components and standards for assessing performance on an oral exam in an upper-division course in history (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 2: Oral Communication This rubric is adapted from Huba and Freed, 2000.
- Example 3: Group Presentations This rubric describes a set of components and standards for assessing group presentations in history (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 1: Discussion Class This rubric assesses the quality of student contributions to class discussions. This is appropriate for an undergraduate-level course (Carnegie Mellon).
- Example 2: Advanced Seminar This rubric is designed for assessing discussion performance in an advanced undergraduate or graduate seminar.
See also " Examples and Tools " section of this site for more rubrics.
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- What to Read
- Managing Time to Read
- Retain What You Read
- How to Read and Understand a Rubric
- How to Read a Journal Article
- How to Take Notes
- Schedule Time For Success
- Choosing a Topic
- Researching Your Topic with OneSearch
- Searching Effectively
- NoteTaking for Research
- Organize Your Writing
- Using Resources
- Plagiarism This link opens in a new window
- Revising and Editing
- Writing Examples
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What is a Rubric?
- What is a rubric?
- S'more Rubric example
- How do I read a rubric?
- In D2L, where can I find the rubric for my discussion, assignment, or paper?
An instructor uses a "rubric" to grade papers and projects where there are no 'right or wrong' answers (Roell, 2019, para. 3). The rubric lists the requirements or "criteria" for the assignment and describes how students will be graded on each criteria. Students check to see whether they have met the criteria before submitting their assignments (Utah Education Network, n.d.). Have you made an excellent S'more? Check out the rubric on the next tab!
Roell, K. (2019, February 25). What is a rubric? https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-rubric-p2-3212064
Utah Education Network. (n.d.). Rubric tool . https://www.uen.org/rubric/know.shtml
Discussions : You will find a link to the Discussion Rubric directly below each Discussion.
Assignments or papers:, on the assignment page, look for a "scoring guide" or a link to a "rubric" following the assignment directions., in some courses, such as en1300 composition ii and en3050 technical communications, you will find the paper rubric or "research paper requirements" under the link in the left colum: course materials or course resources page..
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Examples of Rubrics
Here are some rubric examples from different colleges and universities, as well as the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) VALUE rubrics. We would also like to include examples from Syracuse University faculty and staff. If you would be willing to share your rubric with us, please click here.
- Art and Design Rubric (Rhode Island University)
- Theater Arts Writing Rubric (California State University)
- Holistic Participation Rubric (University of Virginia)
- Large Lecture Courses with TAs (Carnegie Mellon University)
Doctoral Program Milestones
- Qualifying Examination (Syracuse University)
- Comprehensive Core Examination (Portland State University)
- Dissertation Proposal (Portland State University)
- Dissertation (Portland State University)
- Key Competencies in Community-Engaged Learning and Teaching (Campus Compact)
- Global Learning and Intercultural Knowledge (International Cross-Cultural Experiential Learning Evaluation Toolkit)
Humanities and Social Science
- Anthropology Paper (Carnegie Mellon University)
- Economics Paper (University of Kentucky)
- History Paper (Carnegie Mellon University)
- Literary Analysis (Minnesota State University)
- Philosophy Paper (Carnegie Mellon University)
- Psychology Paper (Loyola Marymount University)
- Sociology Paper (University of California)
Media and Design
- Media and Design Elements Rubric (Samford University)
- Physics Paper (Illinois State University)
- Chemistry Paper (Utah State University)
- Biology Research Report (Loyola Marymount University)
- Discussion Forums (Simmons College)
Syracuse University’s Shared Competencies
Ethics, Integrity, and Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion rubric (*pdf)
Critical and Creative Thinking rubric (*pdf)
Scientific Inquiry and Research Skills rubric (*pdf)
Civic and Global Responsibility rubric (*pdf)
Communication Skills rubric (*pdf)
Information Literacy and Technological Agility rubric (*pdf)
- Journal Reflection (The State University of New Jersey)
- Reflection Writing Rubric and Research Project Writing (Carnegie Mellon University)
- Research Paper Rubric (Cornell College)
- Assessment Rubric for Student Reflections
AACU VALUE Rubrics
VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education) is a national assessment initiative on college student learning sponsored by AACU as part of its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative.
Intellectual and Practical Skills
- Inquiry and Analysis (*pdf)
- Critical Thinking (*pdf)
- Creative Thinking (*pdf)
- Written Communication (*pdf)
- Oral Communication (*pdf)
- Reading (*pdf)
- Quantitative Literacy (*pdf)
- Information Literacy (*pdf)
- Teamwork (*pdf)
- Problem Solving (*pdf)
Personal and Social Responsibility
- Civic Engagement (*pdf)
- Intercultural Knowledge and Competence (*pdf)
- Ethical Reasoning (*pdf)
- Foundations and Skills for Lifelong Learning (*pdf)
- Global Learning (*pdf)
Integrative and Applied Learning
- Integrative Learning (*pdf)
Assessing Institution-Wide Diversity
- Self-Assessment Rubric For the Institutionalization of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Higher Education
The Writing Rubric
Instructional rubrics and self-regulated writing, instructional rubrics and feedback, self-assessment, peer assessment, navigating the writing process.
The Writing Rubric - table
Andrade, H. G. (2000). Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership, 57 , 13–18.
Andrade, H. G. (2001). The effects of instructional rubrics on learning to write. Current Issues in Education, 4 (4).
Andrade, H., & Boulay, B. (2003). The role of self-assessment in learning to write. The Journal of Educational Research, 97 (1), 21–34.
First, C. G., & MacMillan, B. (1995). Writing process versatility. Intervention in School and Clinic, 31 , 21–28.
Graham, S., & Harris, K. (1996). Self-regulation and strategy instruction for students who find writing and learning challenging. In M. Levy & S. Ransdell (Eds.), The science of writing (pp. 347–360). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Harris, K., Graham, S., Mason, L., & Saddler, B. (2002). Developing self-regulated writers. Theory Into Practice, 41 , 110–115.
Hayes, J. R., & Flower, L. S. (1986). Writing research and the writer. American Psychologist, 41 , 106–113.
Marchisan, M. L., & Alber, S. R. (2001). The write way: Tips for teaching the writing process to resistant writers. Intervention in School and Clinic, 36 (3), 154–162.
O'Donnell, A., & Topping, K. (1998). Peers assessing peers: Possibilities and problems. In K. Topping & S. Ehly (Eds.), Peer-assisted learning . Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Perkins, D. (2003). King Arthur's round table: How collaborative conversations create smart organizations . Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Saddler, B. (2003). “But teacher, I added a period!” Middle schoolers learn to revise. Voices from the Middle, 11 (2), 20–26.
White, E. (1998). Teaching and assessing writing (2nd ed.). Portland, ME: Calendar Islands Publishers.
Wong, B. Y. L., Butler, D. L., Ficzere, S. A., & Kuperis, S. (1997). Teaching adolescents with learning disabilities and low achievers to plan, write, and revise compare and contrast essays. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 12 , 2–15.
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Samples of Basic, Expository, and Narrative Rubrics
- Grading Students for Assessment
- Lesson Plans
- Becoming A Teacher
- Assessments & Tests
- Elementary Education
- Special Education
How to score a rubric, basic writing rubric, narrative writing rubric, expository writing rubric.
- M.S., Education, Buffalo State College
- B.S., Education, Buffalo State College
An easy way to evaluate student writing is to create a rubric . A rubric is a scoring guide that helps teachers evaluate student performance as well as a student product or project. A writing rubric allows you, as a teacher, to help students improve their writing skills by determining what areas they need help in.
To get started in creating a rubric, you must:
- Read through the students' writing assignment completely.
- Read each criterion on the rubric and then reread the assignment, this time focusing on each feature of the rubric .
- Circle the appropriate section for each criterion listed. This will help you score the assignment at the end.
- Give the writing assignment a final score.
To learn how to turn a four-point rubric into a letter grade, use the basic writing rubric below as an example. The four-point rubric uses four potential points the student can earn for each area, such as 1) strong, 2) developing, 3) emerging, and 4) beginning. To turn your rubric score into a letter grade, divide the points earned by the points possible.
Example: The student earns 18 out of 20 points. 18/20 = 90 percent; 90 percent = A
Suggested Point Scale :
88-100 = A 75-87 = B 62-74 = C 50-61 = D 0-50 = F
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- Rubrics - Quick Guide for all Content Areas
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