“When you're two-thirds of the way through 35 essays on why the Supreme Court's decision in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland is important for an understanding of the development of American federalism, it takes a strong spirit not to want to poke your eyes out with a steak knife rather than read one more.” — John Tierney in Why Teachers Secretly Hate Grading Papers
 
Introduction

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Do you enjoy spending countless hours marking assignments late into the wee hours of the morning? How about responding to endless emails from your students about assignments – questions that you have responded to multiple times in class. If the answer to both is no, then I would like to introduce you to your new best friend – the grading rubric. Once developed, the rubric will save hours of your life, as well as providing for your students in crystal clarity the purpose of their assignments.

 
What is a Grading Rubric?

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A rubric is a set of criteria required for an assignment accompanied by various levels of performance. As the instructor, you simply select the comments on the rubric that match the submission (adding your own comments at your discretion). Rubrics are also useful for self and peer-assessment.

Rubrics help your students know how they will be assessed. They also make grading easier for the instructor. Rubrics are useful for assessing essays, projects, and tests or quizzes with a written component. Check out these examples from Carnegie Mellon.

There are two main types of rubrics: holistic and analytical.

Holistic Rubrics

Holistic rubrics evaluate the overall quality of an assignment.  They are quick, efficient, and fair, and they allow for the assessment of higher-order thinking in which any number of responses may be offered by the student. The shortcomings of holistic rubrics include a lack of specific feedback for the student (unless you include these in your comments). Holistic rubrics generally serve better as summative rather than formative feedback.

Analytical rubrics

Analytical rubrics include a set of criteria on the left side of a grid with levels of performance along the top row (see the example below). Typically the corresponding cells include a description of each criteria at each level of performance. When grading assignments, the instructor checks off each of the appropriate criteria and may choose to include brief written comments below. Analytical rubrics can effectively provide specific feedback that highlights strengths and struggles. The drawbacks of an analytical rubric include the time needed to develop the rubrics, specifically the time and thought that is required to write well-defined and clear criterion. This time is arguably well-spent as the goals and outcomes of the assignment will be explicit for both instructor and student. In the long term, analytical rubrics are a time saver – time invested into their development is quickly paid off during the marking process.

See below for templates of holistic and analytical rubrics:

Template for Holistic Rubrics
Score Description
5 Demonstrates complete understanding of the problem. All requirements of task are included in response.
4 Demonstrates considerable understanding of the problem. All requirements of task are included.
3 Demonstrates partial understanding of the problem. Most requirements of task are included.
2 Demonstrates little understanding of the problem. Many requirements of task are missing.
1 Demonstrates no understanding of the problem.
0 No response/task not attempted.

Template for Analytic Rubrics
  Beginning
1
Developing
2
Accomplished
3
Exemplary
4
 Score
Criteria #1 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Criteria #2 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Criteria #3 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Criteria #4 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  

Sources:

Nilson, L. (2016). Teaching at its best : A research-based resource for college instructors 4th ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mertler, Craig A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(25). Retrieved from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=25

 
Benefits of Rubrics

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Rubrics are helpful for instructors and students on many levels. Rubrics are good for students because:

  1. Students know what is expected.
  2. Students see that learning is about gaining specific knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
  3. Students may self-assess to reflect on their learning.

Rubrics are good for instructors because:

  1. Teachers and students are clear on what is being assessed.
  2. Teachers may consistently assess student work without having to re-write similar comments.
  3. Teachers with high marking loads save considerable time.

The rubric design process is also beneficial. Designing a rubric enables the instructor to take a close look at the purpose of the assignment. The process allows the instructor to enhance or more clearly articulate the purpose and intended learning outcomes of the assignment for the students.

 
How to Design a Rubric*

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  • Decide what criteria or essential elements must be present in the student’s work to ensure that it is high in quality. At this stage, you might even consider selecting samples of exemplary student work that can be shown to students when setting assignments.
  • Decide how many levels of achievement you will include on the rubric and how they will relate to your institution's definition of grades as well as your own grading scheme.
  • For each criterion, component, or essential element of quality, describe in detail what the performance at each achievement level looks like.
  • Leave space for additional, tailored comments or overall impressions and a final grade.
Develop a different rubric for each assignment 

Although this takes time in the beginning, you’ll find that rubrics can be changed slightly or re-used later.  If you are seeking pre-existing rubrics, consider Rhodes (2009) for the AAC&U VALUE rubrics, cited below, or Facione and Facione (1994). Whether you develop your own or use an existing rubric, practice with any other graders in your course to achieve inter-rater reliability.

Be transparent

Give students a copy of the rubric when you assign the performance task. These are not meant to be surprise criteria. Hand the rubric back with the assignment.

Integrate rubrics into assignments

Require students to attach the rubric to the assignment when they hand it in. Some instructors ask students to self-assess or give peer feedback using the rubric prior to handing in the work. 

Leverage rubrics to manage your time

When you mark the assignment, circle or highlight the achieved level of performance for each criterion on the rubric. This is where you will save a great deal of time, as no comments are required. Include any additional specific or overall comments that do not fit within the rubric’s criteria.

Be prepared to revise your rubrics

Decide upon a final grade for the assignment based on the rubric. If you find, as some do, that presented work meets criteria on the rubric but nevertheless seems to have exceeded or not met the overall qualities you’re seeking, revise the rubric accordingly for the next time you teach the course. If the work achieves highly in some areas of the rubric but not in others, decide in advance how the assignment grade is actually derived. Some use a formula, or multiplier, to give different weightings to various components; be explicit about this right on the rubric. 

Consider developing online rubrics

If an assignment is being submitted to an electronic drop box you may be able to develop and use an online rubric. The scores from these rubrics are automatically entered in the online grade book in the course management system.

*Creative commons source: Rubrics: Useful assessment tools. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.

 
Rubric Examples

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Developing Rubrics A storehouse of examples and resources for developing rubrics.

The Center for Teaching and Learning (Humber College). (n.d.). Teaching methods: Developing rubrics. Retrieved from: http://www.humber.ca/centreforteachingandlearning/instructional-strategies/teaching-methods/course-development-tools/creating-assignment-rubrics.html

Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking, Washington State University, Fall 2006, Center for Teaching, Learning, & Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.cpcc.edu/learningcollege/learning-outcomes/rubrics/WST_Rubric.pdf

Grading and Performance Rubrics

Examples of rubrics from various disciplines (scroll down the web page to find them) Eberly Center: Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation (Carnegie Mellon). (n.d.). Grading and performance rubrics. Retrieved from: http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/rubrics.html

Reliable Rubrics A creative commons bank of rubrics from a variety of disciplines.

 
Rubric Template

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Template for Analytic Rubrics
  Beginning
1
Developing
2
Accomplished
3
Exemplary
4
 Score
Criteria #1 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Criteria #2 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Criteria #3 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Criteria #4 Description reflecting beginning level of performance Description reflecting movement toward mastery level of performance Description reflecting achievement of mastery level of performance Description reflecting highest level of performance  
Comments: Total

 
Sample Rubric for a Research Paper

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Beginning
1

Developing
2

Accomplished
3

Exemplary
4

Score

Thesis or Statement of Purpose Generally unclear; Incomplete, unfocused, or absent. Not consistently clear; stated in a single sentence. Clear but may sometimes digresses in the paper; stated in a single sentence. Readily apparent to the reader; concisely stated in a single sentence, which is engaging, and thought provoking.  

Introduction

No reference to the topic, audience or relevance.

May be unclear (contain many vague terms), appear unoriginal, or offer relatively little that is new; provides little around which to structure the paper.

A good attempt is made as to why the topic is pertinent but may be slightly unclear, or lacking in insight or originality. Organization for rest of the paper stated.

Relevance of topic to class or audience is apparent. The groundwork for paper easy to predict because important topics that will be discussed are specifically mentioned.

 

Content

The essay relies on stringing together quotes or close paraphrasing; Failure to support statements with major content omitted; Quotes not integrated, improperly.

Examples support some topic sentences; reader gains little insight; The essay shows little of the writer’s own  relying instead on quotes and paraphrasing that are poorly connected. Examples support some topic sentences; no evidence of novel thinking and intermittent support of thesis through with evidence.

Examples support most topic sentences and support general purpose; reader gains some insight; occasional evidence of novel ways to think about the material  Quotes well integrated into sentences. Topics adequately addressed but not in the detail or depth expected.

Clear examples  to support specific topic sentences and to support the overall purpose; reader gains important insight; analysis poses novel ways to think of the material; quoted material well integrated; depth of coverage without being redundant.

 

Organization

Ideas are  not logically organized. Frequently, ideas fail to make sense together. The reader cannot identify a line of reasoning. Subheadings not used. Few or no  topic sentences.

In general, ideas are arranged logically, but sometimes ideas fail to make sense together. The reader is fairly clear about what writer intends. While subheadings are used, the content beneath them does not follow; many paragraphs without topic sentences.

The ideas are arranged logically to support the central purpose. Transitions usually link paragraphs.  For the most part, the reader can follow the line of reasoning. Subheadings are used throughout the paper to guide the reader without undue confusion; a few paragraphs without strong topic sentences.

The ideas are arranged logically to support the purpose. Transitions link paragraphs. It’s easy to follow the line reasoning. Subheadings are used throughout the paper allowing the reader to reader moves easily through the text.  Paragraphs have  solid topic sentences.

 

Tone for
an academic research paper

Not professional or appropriate. 

Not consistently professional or appropriate.

Generally professional and appropriate.

Consistently professional and appropriate.

 

Sentence
Structure

Errors in sentence structure are frequent enough to be a major distraction to the reader. Run on’s and fragments common.

Some sentences are awkwardly constructed so that the reader is occasionally distracted. Run on sentences are present or short, simple and compound sentences prevail.

Sentences are correct with minor variety in length and structure. The flow from sentence to sentence is generally smooth although some run on sentences are present.

Sentences are well-phrased and varied in length and type. They flow smoothly from one to another with no run on sentences or comma splices.

 

Word Choice

Many words are used inappropriately, confusing the reader. It is difficult for the reader to understand what the writer is trying to express.

Word choice is merely adequate, and the range of words is limited. Some words are used inappropriately. unnecessary words are fairly common.

Word choice is generally good. The writer often finds words that are more precise and effective. Unnecessary words are occasionally used.

Word choice is consistently precise and accurate. The writer uses the active voice.

 

Grammar,
Spelling,
Writing
Mechanics
(punctuation,
italics, capitalization,
etc.

Pattern of ungrammatical writing; There are so many errors that meaning is obscured. The reader is confused and stops reading.

Several grammatical errors; The writing has many errors, and the reader is distracted by them.

A few grammatical errors; There are occasional errors, but they don't represent a major distraction or obscure meaning.

Essentially free of grammatical errors; The writing is free or almost
free of errors.

 

Conclusion

There is little or no indication that the writer tried to synthesize the information or draw conclusions based on the literature; no suggestions for future research.

Some of the conclusions, however, are not supported; weak or trite suggestions for future research.

Some of the conclusions, however, are not supported. Suggestions for future research offered.

The writer makes succinct and precise conclusions based on the review of literature.  Suggestions for future research offered.

 

Reference Quality

There are virtually no sources that are professionally reliable. Over-reliance on tertiary sources; spotty documentation of facts in text.

Most of the references are from sources that are not peer reviewed and have uncertain reliability. Several relevant secondary sources, more than one tertiary source; some facts not referenced; displays minimal effort in selecting quality sources.

Although most of the references are professionally legitimate, a few are questionable (e.g., trade books, internet sources, popular magazines, …) Several relevant secondary sources, revealing adequate research.

References are primarily peer reviewed professional journals or other approved sources; Numerous relevant scholarly sources (and primary sources, where available and appropriate) demonstrating extensive, in-depth research; little reliance on tertiary sources.

 

Citation Format

Format of the document is not recognizable as MLA or other approved format; References or Works Cited list were not cited in the text. pattern of citation errors.

There are several errors in APA MLA or other approved format. References or Works Cited list were not cited in the text.

APA MLA or other approved format is used with minor errors. Some formatting problems exist, or some components are missing. no more than one or two citation errors.

APA, MLA or other approved format is used accurately and consistently in the paper and on the "References" page. The references in the list match the in-text citations and all were properly encoded in APA or MLA format.

 

Length

Without approval paper has more or fewer pages than specified. 

Without approval paper has more or fewer pages than specified. 

Number of pages specified in the assignment.

Number of pages specified in the assignment.

 

Comments:

Total

Adapted from Written Report Assessment Template, Compiled from the following sources: Project Literary among Youth, 2002, http://www.kidsplay.org/100w/rubric.html. Kansas State University, 2005. Rubric for Research Paper

 
Resources and References

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Centre for Teaching Excellence (University of Waterloo). (n.d.). Rubrics: Useful assessment tools. Retrieved from https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching- tips/assessing-student-work/grading-and-feedback/rubrics-useful-assessment-tools

Davis, B. (2009). Tools for teaching (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Eberly Center: Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation (Carnegie Mellon). (n.d.). Grading and performance rubrics. Retrieved from: http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/rubrics.html

Guide to Rating Critical & Integrative Thinking, Washington State University, Fall 2006, Center for Teaching, Learning, & Technology. Retrieved from: http://www.cpcc.edu/learningcollege/learning-outcomes/rubrics/WST_Rubric.pdf

Mertler, Craig A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(25). Retrieved from http://PAREonline.net/getvn.asp?v=7&n=25

Nilson, L. (2016). Teaching at its best : A research-based resource for college instructors 4th ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

 

Magna Campus Video and Supplemental Materials Resource

 

How Can Rubrics Make Grading Easier and Faster?

Alternatively:

  1. Log on to UM Learn
  2. Under My Courses, select All Roles under Role, and All under Term.
  3. Scroll down to Development Courses and select The Centre – Magna Campus Resources
  4. Select Magna Campus > Open Menu > Seminar Libraries > 20 Minute Mentors
  5. In the search box, type in “rubrics”