What Are They?

Rubrics are methods of measuring student performance using predetermined criteria and learning levels. Rubrics not only provide a framework by which teachers may evaluate student performance, but they also enable students to know, before they begin an assignment, what the teacher’s expectations are and the necessary tasks needed to accomplish in order to achieve their desired goal. Rubrics are often associated with Authentic Assessment.

In order for a rubric to be an effective tool for evaluation, it must have certain characteristics:
  • Important content – the rubric should focus on the content that is most important and must be sure to specify what that content is
  • Clarity – students must be able to understand the rubric and so it must contain sufficient details
  • Practical – students should be able to apply the rubric easily for self-assessment and for understanding of what they need to learn; and
  • Fair – the ratings of the rubric should show what students are able to do and should not be biased, but support all learners regardless of race, gender, or cultural background.

Types of Rubrics.

Analytic Rubrics

Most rubrics are analytic rubrics. According to Johnathan Muller, an analytic rubric "articulates levels of performance for each criterion so the teacher can assess student performance on each criterion."

When to choose an analytic rubric

Analytic rubrics are more common because teachers typically want to assess each criterion separately, particularly for assignments that involve a larger number of criteria. An analytic rubric better handles weighting of criteria. The teacher uses specific numbers of criterion per category which are to be met.

Holistic Rubrics

In contrast, Johnathan Muller says that a holistic rubric does not list separate levels of performance for each criterion. "Instead, a holistic rubric assigns a level of performance by assessing performance across multiple criteria as a whole." An example of a holistic rubric:
3 - Excellent Researcher
  • included 10-12 sources
  • no apparent historical inaccuracies
  • can easily tell which sources information was drawn from
  • all relevant information is included
2 - Good Researcher
  • included 5-9 sources
  • few historical inaccuracies
  • can tell with difficulty where information came from
  • bibliography contains most relevant information
1 - Poor Researcher
  • included 1-4 sources
  • lots of historical inaccuracies
  • cannot tell from which source information came
  • bibliography contains very little informati
Multiple factors are considered along with historical accuracy in the use of a holistic rubric to arrive at a more "global (or holistic) impression of the student work." Another example of a holistic rubric is the "Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric" (in PDF) developed by Facione & Facione.

When to choose a holistic rubric
Use holistic rubrics for quick judgments. Examples would be short homework assignments (e.g., check, check-plus, or no-check) to quickly review student work. However, one could also employa holistic rubric for more in-depth assignments. As Johnathan Muller points out, "Many writing rubrics are holistic because it is not always easy to disentangle clarity from organization or content from presentation."

Creating a Rubric.

There are four key components to creating a rubric:

Learner objectives, or performance objectives. What will the students learn or be expected to do?
Dimensions. What are the tasks that the students will be expected to perform?
Levels of gradation. How many levels will the teacher include in order to adequately assess the students and what are those levels
Criterion and points. How well will the students be expected to do the tasks and how are the points assigned?

While creating rubrics can be time consuming, they are very well worth it. To cope with time constraints involve in creating rubrics the teacher can follow some guidelines (Kelly 2004):
  1. List what the students need to accomplish with the assignment;
  2. Organize the list from most to least important;
  3. Decide how much the assignment is worth;
  4. Assign each item from Step 2 a percentage value out of 100 percent;
  5. Multiply the percentage value by the total value for the assignment to get the point value for each item ;
  6. Decide on specific grading criteria for each of the items;
  7. Transfer this information into a chart with columns left blank for the actual grade assigned and comments; and
  8. When you grade the assignment, use this form and attach it to the assignment.

This is one possible template for creating rubrics:


Below is sample rubric.


Teachers. Rubrics provide many benefits to teachers. They are easy to use and often make grading easier. Certain projects like essays are easier to grade by using rubrics since they have a formula at hand and the teacher will just plug in the criteria and come up with a more precise score. This will avoid the ambiguity in scoring some assignments. Rubrics also enable teachers to target specific areas in which students need more help.

Parents. Parents prefer rubrics because they are easy to understand. Rubrics zero in on specific areas of the content being learned and the tasks that their child need to do. The rubrics specify precisely and justify the score the student got, what he/she needs to work on, and how he/she has progressed. Rubrics can provide numerous answers to parents about their child's performance.

Students. Rubrics are helpful to students because they provide a framework ahead of time by which they can model their work. They are able to know their teacher’s expectations very clearly. Rubrics provide far more feedback than traditional forms of assessment do. When students refer to the feedback provided, the rubrics can help students develop certain skills, such as better writing skills and critical thinking skills. When students use the rubrics to help them assess their work as they progress, the rubrics serve to support learning as well as foster independence. Rubrics not only provide students with clear information on how well they performed, but indicate what they need to do to improve their performance in the future. Because students are able to know teacher expectations ahead of time, and assess the learning as they go along, rubric can serve to decrease anxiety about learning assignments and projects.



Rubrics have been found to be very useful to many educators from grade school to grad school. As discussed previously the use of rubrics have many benefits, however there are also some challenges in creating and using rubrics that educators would have to contend with. Not all rubrics are constructed well to effectively measure skills that are supposedly being measured. The following are some common flaws found in rubrics (Popham, 1997):

1. Task specific evaluative criteria
The criteria that evaluate student’s performance should be the most instructionally relevant component of the rubric and should guide educators in planning their lessons. However, problem arises when the evaluative criteria is linked only to the specific elements in a particular performance test that it becomes totally task specific and therefore essentially worthless from the standpoint of instruction. The criteria should evaluate essential components of a skill being measured and not a particular display of skill applied in a specific task.

2. Excessively General Evaluative Criteria
As much as a too specific rubric is faulty so is a too general one to the extent that they provide no guidance to the key skills that are to be evaluated. When the evaluative criteria are presented such that they are devoid of precision or vague , they become useless. The criteria in a rubric should represent a key attribute of the skill being assessed in an activity.

3. Dysfunctional Detail
Many rubrics are found to be lengthy and laden with so much details that they become too cumbersome for classroom use. Rubrics that are specifically designed for large scale high stakes assessments (e.g. tests for high school graduation) may have been understandably designed toward detailed scoring rules . However, for normal classroom, a rubric that is far too lengthy and particularized would discourage teachers to use it. A brief , properly fashioned rubric will be more useful in capturing the key evaluative criteria needed to judge the student’s responses. A well thought of rubric, free of unnecessary details/particulars will certainly yield quality student performance .

4. Equating the test to the Skill with Skill itself
Rubrics can be very useful but a teacher should be careful not to be caught up with particulars of a given performance test and begin to view the test as the skill itself. It is important that educators must keep in mind that performance tests represent skills and must instruct toward the skill as opposed to the test , for the goal is to achieve skill mastery rather than test mastery.

Creating rubrics can be very time consuming. It is also important to note that a rubric must be clear. Sometimes teachers create rubrics that are somewhat vague and open to interpretation: this is exactly what a rubric is supposed to avoid. Using precise language is critical. However, there are some instances where rubrics seem to hinder assessment. Situations which call for creativity tend to be subjective, whereas a rubric calls for specific standards which can be ridged.

The following video is by a teacher who has found that rubrics have actually worked against accurate student assessment:

Rethinking Rubrics

Other Helpful Links.


Andrade, H. (2000). Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and Learning. Educational Leadership. 4. Retrieved November 26, 2007 from

Discovery Education, Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators (2007) retrieved November 28, 2007 from

Stiggins, R. J. ( 2001) Student-involved classroom assessment (3rd edition). Columbus, OH: Merrill Prentice Hall.

W James Popham. (1997). What's wrong--and what's right--with rubrics. Educational Leadership, 55(2), 72.