CSULA Department of English | Using Grading Rubrics

Beloved of accrediting bodies, rubrics (or scoring guides
as they are sometimes called) are all the rage. For many
instructors, however, rubrics simply sound like more work,
one thing more to do on that endless to-do list. Rubrics do
require some initial investment of time and thought, but in
the long run a well-designed rubric can streamline the
grading process by making clear to both the instructor and
students what constitutes different levels of work. Rubrics
can ensure consistency in grading practices and transparency
in the grading process by serving as a shared understanding
of both the requirements of a project and the expectations
of the instructor.

What exactly is a rubric? Briefly, it is a set of scoring
guidelines for evaluating student work. The rubric indicates
both the criteria that will be used to judge the work and
distinguishes between different levels of performance.



Focusing on
Audience, Purpose and Genre

Balancing Low
Stakes and High Stakes Assignments

Designing Effective

Responding to
Student Writing

Dealing with

Emphasizing Style

Using Grading

By identifying the criteria to be used to judge the work,
a good rubric clearly identifies the instructor's
expectations. And by distinguishing between different levels
of performance a good rubric helps students determine how to
meet those expectations. Also, because a rubric is shared
with students early in the process, students become better
judges of the quality of their own work and in peer review
the work of others. The rubric also provides the instructor
with language to give feedback on the quality of work.

Creating a Rubric

Examples of rubrics are easily found online. One key to a
successful rubric, however, is that the rubric be specific
to the assignment. Generalized rubrics for writing, for
example, abound, such as the scoring guides we have
developed for our two first-year writing courses. Click here
to see our rubric for ENGL 101
and ENGL 102. For more
specialized assignments, instructors will want to develop
their own rubrics.

A good rubric takes time and revision
to develop. Here is some basic advice for creating a rubric.

  1. Because the rubric will need to be refined over
    time, pick an assignment that will be used regularly in
    a course or regularly in a range of courses.
  2. Determine what criteria will be used to judge the
    work, then distinguish for each criterion what
    constitutes different levels of performance. This step
    is of course the hard part. Most rubrics are actually
    developed in this way:
    1. Start with examples of the strongest and weakest
      performances on an assignment.
    2. Identify the characteristics or traits shared by
      the strong performances and those shared by the weak
      performances. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a
      list of the criteria that will be used to judge the
    3. Define different levels of performance. Use the
      strong work to define the highest level of
      performance and the weak work to define the lowest
      level of performance; then extrapolate the middle
      levels. The goal here is to identify clearly what distinguishes the
      excellent work from the good work from the not-so
      good work.
  3. Use the rubric and revise and refine it. Sometimes
    the initial rubric doesn't contain all the criteria
    necessary. Other times it contains criteria that turns
    out to be unimportant. Often the discriminations the
    instructor has sought to make between different levels
    of quality prove difficult to see in practice.
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