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The Value of Rubrics for Assessment


According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a rubric is a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests. There are two main types of rubrics, holistic and analytic.

Holistic rubrics grade several criteria on a single scale. For example, a piece of writing might be scored from 1 to 4, with a score of 1 representing “below grade level expectations”, a 2 representing “approaches grade level expectations”, 3 representing “meets expectations”, and a 4 representing “exceeds expectations”.


Analytic rubrics, on the other hand, allow the scorer to rate several specific characteristics or criteria independently at various performance levels.


As you may imagine, a holistic rubric is much quicker to use, but unfortunately does not provide the same level of detailed feedback that an analytic rubric offers. And while analytic rubrics do provide detailed feedback, their creation takes more time, as does the actual act of scoring an assignment with one. Rubrics are most often associated with writing assignments, and you might even particularly associate them with state or district assessments. When standardized tests are being scored in great volumes, time is of the essence, and holistic rubrics are frequently used. It is probably a good idea to occasionally use a holistic rubric to score writing samples of your students. You might want to use a holistic rubric at the beginning of the year, again mid-year, and finally, at the end of the year to see the progress that your students’ have made. However, if you are looking for a way to thoroughly analyze a piece of writing, and to provide detailed feedback on the writer’s strengths and weaknesses, an analytic rubric is the best option.

It is important to remember, however, that the usefulness of rubrics goes far beyond writing assignments. Here are a just a few ideas of what can be assessed with a rubric for a variety of subject areas.

Science observations, investigations, lab reports, scientific drawings, science projects
Math problem solving, algebraic or geometry proofs, mini-lessons (where the student teaches a skill to the class or a small group)
Social Studies descriptive writing, research, oral presentations
Reading reading response logs, letters to or from characters, book trailer videos
Fine Arts musical compositions or performances, visual art projects such as sculpture or painting

The resource below shows several examples of different rubrics for a variety of subject areas.

Countless rubrics can be found online for your classroom use, but the most impactful rubrics are the ones you create on your own. The feedback that a student receives from a rubric is only as good as the descriptors included in the rubric, so the more time spent on developing thorough and detailed descriptors, the better off you are. Additionally, most often rubrics need to be created for specific assignments, because what you assess will vary from assignment to assignment. For example, a rubric for an oral presentation will vary greatly from a rubric for a written research report. The one for the oral presentation will likely assess voice level and clarity, as well as eye contact with the audience, while the rubric for a research report will focus on organization and evidence of solid research.

Rubrics are also a great way to set expectations for your students. If they have the opportunity to view the rubric before beginning an assignment, your students will know exactly what is expected of them in order to meet the highest standard.

As you can see, rubrics are a helpful tool for any teacher! They can be used for any subject, and at any grade level. The time put in to creating them is a sound investment, as they help you to assess assignments that have no clear-cut right and wrong responses.


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