Rubrics Research Paper Starter


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This article focuses on rubrics, a type of formative assessment that can be used for instructional purposes. Rubrics can help students understand exactly what the instructor expects of them for a project or instructional unit, by outlining the steps and expected outcomes. Several different types of rubrics and how each is used are discussed. Examples are given for classroom implementation. The steps involved in developing a rubric are also addressed, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Keywords Analytical Rubric; Assessment; Authentic Assessment; Feedback; Formative Assessment; Holistic Rubric; Peer Evaluation; Primary Rubric; Scoring Rubric; Self-Assessment; Summative Assessment; Validity


Rubrics are a type of formative assessment and can be used for instructional purposes. They are written out steps and procedures for students to follow for assignments, delineating expectations and desired outcomes. They are usually no more than one or two pages long, and they describe the different levels of quality from proficient to poor for a specific project or assignment. Instructional rubrics are considered a higher, better form of assessment because they provide more informative feedback about each student's strengths and weaknesses than do traditional forms of assessments. The perfect rubric is one that can clearly and concisely describe the kinds of mistakes students tend to make as well as the ways in which work excels, providing invaluable guidance for students even when the instructor is not available to assist them (Andrade, 2000). Rubrics are generally reserved for more complex assignments such as a long-term project, term paper, research paper, essay, or class presentation. There are two primary purposes for rubrics. For students, a rubric is intended to provide informative, useful feedback about their work while they are in the midst of it and then provide a detailed evaluation when the project is complete. For instructors, rubrics provide a more detailed look at how students are progressing on projects, and help teachers focus their instruction on the competencies they deem to be most important for their students.

An effective rubric is one that is concise and easy to read, so students understand exactly what the instructor expects of them when completing their assignment or project. Rubrics can also be a useful tool for parents who are assisting their children with their homework, since they can consult the rubric and know exactly what is expected of their child. Rubrics also help parents understand exactly what their children are learning as the competencies are all laid out in each instructional rubric.

By supplying their students with written expectations in the form of a rubric, instructors help ensure that their students know exactly what is expected of them and what constitutes exemplary, good, poor or failing work-and it gives students something concrete that they can refer to as often as necessary while they are completing the assignment. The rubric can be complemented with actual examples of each level of work to help students make the connection with the various levels. Students who do low-level work may have never seen what a high-quality assignment or paper looks like. Actually seeing good work can help them determine which qualities are considered superior, giving them something on which to focus.

Rubrics are useful tools at all educational levels; they differ from checklists in that checklists do not identify different quality levels. Rubrics also require instructors to really take a look at the courses they teach and decide what they want their students to accomplish in the class. Instruction can become better designed and more coherent as a result of working with rubrics. Rubrics can help students understand the rationale behind their assignments and activities because they can clearly see what they are expected to do and what competencies they will learn. Rubrics can also help them understand what the differences are between high-quality work and work of a lesser quality because it is all spelled out for them in a properly formulated rubric. Rubrics can also help instructors remain fair and unbiased because they require the instructor to mark students on the quality of their work based on the criteria listed on the rubric, and they do not take into consideration outside factors that may have influenced the instructor in the past (How Rubrics Work, 2005).

Students can learn a lot more from a rubric than they can from a letter grade or score. A single letter grade or score can leave both students and parents and even school districts wondering whether the grade shows relative or absolute achievement. Even if instructors try to bring relevance using class, school or district norms, it can be misleading because there is no way of determining whether or not each student's performance level is appropriate, or if the performance is just superior in that class, school, or district yet sub par when compared to students in the best schools in the country. Rubrics are able to show exactly what has been mastered because each component of the project or assignment is rated on a scale.

Types of Rubrics

There are two basic types of rubrics. Both forms of assessment are considered authentic when properly done, and each has its use depending on the type of project or assignment and what the instructor would like to assess.

Analytical Rubrics

Analytical rubrics break projects into their individual parts and each part is rated using a scale provided. For writing a paper, such a breakdown could include the components:

• Uses an introductory paragraph,

• Clearly states main ideas,

• Provides supporting evidence,

• Uses a pattern to present information,

• Is persuasive, and

• Ends with a summary and appropriate conclusion (Tuttle, 1996).

Each component is rated separately, and each individual rating is compiled to obtain an overall score for the project or assignment (Tuttle, 1996).

Holistic Rubrics

Holistic rubrics require the instructor to score the overall project or presentation as a whole without rating each component separately. Holistic rubrics are more appropriate than analytical rubrics when there is no definite or clearly correct answer, or if the components of an activity are too interrelated for easy division. They may also be the more appropriate choice whenever errors made in parts of the assignment are acceptable as long as the overall quality of the project is high. While analytical rubrics can be the better choice in cases in which each component of a project is important and distinct, holistic rubrics can be less time consuming to score because analytical rubrics require the separate examination of individual work and feedback for each piece. However, analytical rubrics can provide more in-depth assessment and help pinpoint each student's areas of strength and the areas of weakness that require more work (Kan, 2007).


Scoring and primary rubrics are more specific interpretations of analytical and holistic rubrics. A scoring rubric is a rubric used by an instructor to assign grades and supplies guidelines that describe the characteristics of different levels of performance. Scoring rubrics may also be used by students and groups when conducting peer or self-assessment. Scoring rubrics consist of performance criteria, performance level, and performance definition across scale level....

(The entire section is 3333 words.)