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Grading Rubrics

Rubrics are useful for establishing a set of criteria by which student work will be assessed. Rubrics can be given to students along with an assignment to help them understand the levels of achievement and scoring guidelines for their work. They can also help graders with consistency in their evaluations, especially in courses in which more than one person will be doing the assessment. Finally, rubrics are helpful when giving students feedback on their assignments—especially if they are unhappy with their grade.

When rubrics (or portions of rubrics) are designed around learning objectives, they can be used to assess how well students have acquired the skills and knowledge described in the objectives.

Philosophy Dept. Paper Grading Rubric (Mara Harell, Carnegie Mellon University)
Needs Work
Introduction Position and exceptions, if any, are clearly stated. Organization of the argument is completely and clearly outlined and implemented. 4-5 pts Position is clearly stated. Organization of argument is clear in parts or only partially described and mostly implemented. 2-3 pts Position is vague. Organization of argument is missing, vague, or not consistently maintained. 0-1 pts
Research Research selected is highly relevant to the argument, is presented accurately and completely – the method, results, and implications are all presented accurately; Theory is relevant, accurately described and all relevant components are included; relationship between research and theory is clearly articulated and accurate. 8– 10 pts Research is relevant to the argument and is mostly accurate and complete – there are some unclear components or some minor errors in the method, results or implications. Theory is relevant and accurately described, some components may not be present or are unclear. Connection to theory is mostly clear and complete, or has some minor errors. 5 – 7 pts Research selected is not relevant to the argument or is vague and incomplete – components are missing or inaccurate or unclear. Theory is not relevant or only relevant for some aspects; theory is not clearly articulated and/or has incorrect or incomplete components. Relationship between theory and research is unclear or inaccurate, major errors in the logic are present. 0 – 4 pts
Conclusions Conclusion is clearly stated and connections to the research and position are clear and relevant. The underlying logic is explicit. 4-5 pts Conclusion is clearly stated and connections to research and position are mostly clear, some aspects may not be connected or minor errors in logic are present. 2-3 pts Conclusion may not be clear and the connections to the research are incorrect or unclear or just a repetition of the findings without explanation. Underlying logic has major flaws; connection to position is not clear.
Writing Paper is coherently organized and the logic is easy to follow. There are no spelling or grammatical errors and terminology is clearly defined. Writing is clear and concise and persuasive. 4-5 pts Paper is generally well organized and most of the argument is easy to follow. There are only a few minor spelling or grammatical errors, or terms are not clearly defined. Writing is mostly clear but may lack conciseness. 2-3 pts Paper is poorly organized and difficult to read – does not flow logically from one part to another. There are several spelling and/or grammatical errors; technical terms may not be defined or are poorly defined. Writing lacks clarity and conciseness. 0-1 pts

Developing a Rubric

Clearly define the assignment including the topic, the process that students will work through, and the product they are expected to produce.

Assignment example: Critical Analysis of an Essay

In this assignment you will be doing a critical analysis of the essay _______________. Note the main argument of the text and the strengths and weaknesses as you see them. Identify the theme (s) and determine the perspective of the author. Include any specific characteristic of this essay compared to others we have read this term and address possible limits the author may have encountered.

Brainstorm a list of what you expect to see in the student work that demonstrates the particular learning objective(s) you are assessing.

Brainstorm example:

Main argument is clearly stated, context is considered, strengths and weakness of the argument are presented, perspective of the author is explained, specific characteristics of the essay are mentioned, identification of the theme (s) and limits the author may have encountered.

Keep the list manageable (3-8 items) and focus on the most important abilities, knowledge, or attitudes expected.

The example above includes 8 items.

Edit the list so that each component is specific and concrete (for instance, what do you mean by coherence?), use action verbs when possible, and descriptive, meaningful adjectives .

Example: “Context is considered” is vague. Perhaps “Explain the importance of when and under what circumstances this essay was written.”

Establish clear and detailed standards for performance for each component. Avoid relying on comparative language when distinguishing among performance levels.

Example: You will see rubrics categories labeled as Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, Failing and other similar value judgments. While this is a common practice, these labels are unnecessary. Stick to the knowledge and skills required at each level of mastery. Categories can be labeled Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, etc. Some instructors use “Beginning, Developing, Accomplished.” Let’s assume that most students are attempting to do a good job on the assignments and that they have varying levels of knowledge and skills in relation to these assignments. A well-written rubric with clearly-defined criteria can help a student see where he is in relation to where he’d like to be in terms of mastery.

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Rubric Samples

Additional Resources