Online Writing Lab

Using Rubrics

Using a rubric to grade writing assignments can be beneficial for both instructors and students.  For instructors, a rubric provides an established and organized system for determining grades by assigning point values to pre-determined criteria.  Because there are specific point values assigned to specific criteria, grading often becomes easier.   Also, the overall score is calculated by adding up individual criterion, so the final grade becomes more objective and less subjective.

For a student, a rubric provides understanding to the criteria that will be used for grading a particular assignment and, if given ahead of time, provides the student with a tangible reminder of the necessary components for the assignment.   It also promotes trust with the instructor and his/her grading practices since the student knows in advance how he/she will be graded.  Furthermore, if given ahead of time, the rubric provides the student with a reminder (or a checklist) of the important criteria that need to be included.

Types of rubrics:

Analytic rubrics provide detailed feedback on specific elements of the assignment.  Analytic rubrics allow an instructor to grade a larger range of criteria and provide more detailed feedback to the student.  They also provide for consistent grading across different students and assignments.  However, the down side is that because analytic rubrics are more detailed, they are more time consuming to create and score.  Analytic rubrics tend to work effectively when grading an assignment with lots of specific criteria.     
    Samples: Analytic Rubric #1 | Analytic Rubric #2

Holistic rubrics group individual criteria into categories to provide an overall score for certain portions of the essay.  They can even be used to provide a cumulative score for the entire assignment.  Because they are not as detailed as analytic rubrics, holistic rubrics are easy to create and allow for quick grading.  The disadvantage of holistic rubrics is that they do not provide detailed feedback and create a more subjective grade.
    Samples: Holistic Rubric #1 | Holistic Rubric #2  

Mixed rubrics serve as a hybrid between the two main types.  They provide more detail than a holistic rubric, but not as much as an analytic one.  They can be particularly helpful when grading medium length assignments.  View a sample mixed rubric.

Keep in mind that a rubric can be as specific or as general as necessary, but regardless of the type, it is there to help both the instructor and the student with creating and evaluating the assignment.  When creating a rubric, consider the overall goal of the assignment and the number of criteria needed to achieve this goal.
                                              
Tip:  Involving students in the creation of a rubric is one way to help them feel empowered and receive helpful feedback.  To do this, show them an example of a rubric you use in a different class or for a different assignment, and then ask students to create a similar one with different criteria for their particular assignment.  This exercise serves several purposes:  it allows students to provide input in the grading process; it provides you, the instructor, with help in creating the rubric; and, perhaps most important, it serves as an informal review session for what is expected in the assignment. 

As an alternative to having students create a rubric, they can instead be assigned with the task of adding more detail or providing feedback to an existing rubric.