Creating a Scoring Rubric

What is a scoring rubric?

A scoring rubric is an efficient tool that allows you to objectively measure student performance on an assessment activity. Rubrics may vary in complexity, but generally do the following:

  • Focus on measuring very specific stated learning objectives
  • Use a range to rate performance
  • Are based on specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met

There are two types of scoring rubrics:

  • Primary trait analysis (separate, holistic scoring of specified characteristics or a product, activity or behavior); for assessment purposes, the primary traits are learning outcomes being assessed, and separate scores are given for each trait or outcome. This is most useful when assessing a course or program.
  • Holistic scoring (one global, holistic score for a product, activity or behavior); for assessment purposes, in holistic scoring a single score is given for overall achievement of multiple learning outcomes. This is most useful when assessing a knowledge area such as critical thinking or communication.

Either type of rubric works well for assessment, so you should feel free to use the method with which you feel is most suited to the learning outcomes and assessment tool you are using.

When should a scoring rubric be used?

Rubrics can be used to classify and measure almost any product, activity or behavior, such as tests, essays, reports, portfolios, projects, oral presentations, performances, or group activities. Once you have selected or developed an assessment tool or tools, you can create a rubric to define the expectations for the course/program/area you are assessing.

How do I develop a scoring rubric?

Once you have determined what you are assessing (a course, program, or large knowledge/skill set such as critical thinking) and developed your assessment tool(s), you can develop your rubric. Download the Scoring Rubric templates for details on developing primary trait analysis and holistic scoring rubrics. The Scoring Rubric templates are in Adobe Acrobat PDF.

  1. Identify the characteristics of what you are assessing. In most cases, these will be specific stated learning outcomes. Each rubric item will usually focus on a different skill or competency. Keep it simple, with perhaps 5-15 items stated in brief phrases.
  2. Describe the best work you could expect using these characteristics. This describes the top range of your rubric.
  3. Describe the worst acceptable product using these characteristics. This describes the lowest acceptable range of your rubric.
  4. Describe an unacceptable product. This describes the lowest range of your rubric.
  5. Develop descriptions of intermediate-level products and assign them to intermediate ranges. For example, for a primary trait rubric you might choose a range of one to five for each item or learning outcome (for example: unacceptable, limited proficiency, proficient, good proficiency, superior proficiency). A sample range for holistic scoring is a scale of one to four, with each range representing a series of achieved learning objectives (for example, completes all of the objectives, completes some of the objective, completes few of the objectives, completes none of the objectives). Alternatively, you may choose a scale such as high pass, pass, low pass, or no pass. Select terminology that is clear, objective, and meaningful to your assessment tool and learning outcomes.

How do I use my rubric?

  • Use it to define performance on a single assessment tool such as a test or project, with each characteristic representing a learning outcome.
  • Use it to define program assessment, with each characteristic representing a broad outcome measured by a different assessment tool.
  • Use a scoring rubric to evaluate a test or assignment that is given in class for a grade. Score the assignment blindly with a rubric that is different from the method you use for grading, or have the assignment externally evaluated using a rubric. One method is to select several questions from a final, for example, and evaluate them using a rubric in which each question represents a learning outcome to be assessed.