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A rubric is a tool built from a set of criteria that can be used to both guide and evaluate student performance on an assignment. When designed and used effectively, rubrics can help instructors:

  • Grade more efficiently and consistently
  • Align coursework with learning outcomes
  • Effectively communicate expectations and what success looks like
  • Precisely identify specific strengths and weaknesses in students’ work
  • Guide students to do more effective self-assessment and/or peer review

Some instructors worry that using a rubric will limit students’ critical thinking or creativity. But providing students with a rubric before they begin an assignment means that students don’t have to guess what you want – it can help them better understand the parameters of the assignment and the hallmarks of excellence. With your expectations in mind, they are more likely to take risks and try new approaches – particularly if your rubric specifies this as a goal.

Components of a rubric

Effective rubrics generally consist of three core components:

  • Criteria: These are areas an instructor has determined to be key to student success on an assignment. They constitute the backbone of an instructor’s assessment of a student’s performance. Typically, criteria focus on the quality of the assignment’s content, methods, reasoning, communication, and/or format. To identify rubric criteria ask: What will I look at when I’m grading that will help me determine if a student is successful?
  • Performance Levels: Similar to Likert scale ratings, performance levels are ratings that articulate the level of success demonstrated by the student on a particular criterion. They might be expressed in simple terms such as Complete / Incomplete, as a range of numbers or letters (e.g., 1-5 or A-F), or as a more detailed range of ratings (e.g., Sophisticated, Good, Competent, Average, Needs work, or Poor).
  • Performance Descriptions: These are short descriptions of each performance level for a given criterion. For example, if the criterion is “Use of Research” and the performance levels range from A to F, the instructor would write five separate performance descriptions – one that articulates the characteristics an “A” quality use of research, one that articulates the characteristics of a “B” quality use of research, etc.

Types of rubrics

There are many different types of rubrics, each of which might be more or less suited to your particular teaching context. Most fall into one of three basic types of rubrics.

Types of rubrics

A holistic rubric is organized around performance levels rather than criteria. Each performance level includes a description of all the qualities that characterize the performance level. The instructor typically assigns a single score (usually using numbered or letter-based scale) based on their overall assessment of the student’s work.

Use when you are interested in giving the student feedback on the quality of their overall performance, rather than detailed feedback on multiple elements.

A single-point rubric is similar to an analytic rubric in that it is organized around a set of criteria and is set up as a matrix. However, single-point rubrics don’t have multiple performance levels, but instead only describe what proficiency looks like. Rather than articulating potential weaknesses in advance (as is the case in an analytic rubric), single point rubrics make space for instructors to provide specific feedback on areas of excellence and opportunities for improvement.

Use when you want to focus students on the criteria rather than the grade.

An analytic rubric is typically set up as a matrix with the criteria for the assignment listed in the leftmost column and the levels of performance listed across the top row, often using a numbered scale or descriptive tags. The cells within the matrix ideally would contain performance descriptions. When using an analytic rubric each of the criteria is scored individually. Students are able to understand the characteristics that distinguish an excellent submission from an unsatisfactory submission.

Use when you want to weigh criteria differently and provide detailed feedback on multiple, specific elements.

    How to develop a rubric

    1. Articulate your learning outcomes for the assignment. What will students learn and/or do as a result of completing this assignment?
    2. Determine the type of rubric that will work best for assessing these outcomes and communicating feedback to students.
    3. Identify the criteria that will help you measure whether students have met the learning outcomes for the assignment.
    4. Determine the performance levels and write out the performance descriptions. Keep these as brief as possible–the fewer criteria you have, the easier it will be for students to prioritize what’s most important (and for you to grade their work).
    5. Decide how and when you will share the rubric with students. To get the most use out of your rubric, share it at the same time that you introduce the assignment. Knowing from the start how the assignment will be assessed will help students approach it most effectively.

    Tips for developing an effective rubric

    • Limit rubric criteria to the most important aspects of the assignment.
    • Use specific, descriptive language to articulate the assignment requirements and assessment criteria.
    • Ensure consistency by using similar language in each section of the rubric.
    • Share the rubric with students when introducing an assignment.
    • Consider co-creating rubrics with your students to help them better understand their own learning.


    The examples below are meant to demonstrate the basic concepts and structure of a rubric. They are not meant to apply to any particular assignment. With a particular assignment in mind, instructors will need to articulate both the criteria that will guide their assessment of students’ performance and the performance descriptions for each level.

    Holistic Rubric


    e.g., Exemplary (24)


    e.g., Proficient (22)


    e.g., Acceptable (20)


    e.g., Weak (18)


    e.g., Unacceptable (16)


    e.g., “The presentation clearly defines and introduces the topic, includes multiple examples, and provides a detailed explanation of the relevance of the topic. It includes a bibliography of 10 sources in correct format and is well-organized and visually effective.”

    Description Description Description Description

    Single-Point Rubric

      CRITERION #1

    e.g., “USE OF MATERIALS: The drawing explores the versatility of the assigned medium (charcoal), including different strategies for mark making, shading, etc.”

      CRITERION #2  
      CRITERION #3  
      CRITERION #4  

    Analytic Rubric



    e.g., Excellent (4)


    e.g., Good (3)


    e.g., Adequate (2)


    e.g., Inadequate (1)

    Criterion #1
    e.g., “Problem solving”

    e.g., “Implements all relevant problem-solving strategies”


    e.g., “Implements several relevant problem-solving strategies”


    e.g., “Implements one problem-solving strategy”


    e.g., “Does not implement any relevant problem-solving strategies”)

    Criterion #2 Description Description Description Description
    Criterion #3 Description Description Description Description

    Basic rubric examples Word doc

    Additional resources