Properly used, rubrics are a rich teaching tool. By making explicit what we are looking for in an assignment, we set students up to succeed by teaching them where to focus and what to prioritize. Rubrics can thus reinforce what we teach in the classroom by emphasizing precisely those elements of the assignment that we want students to attend to. For example, if one of your goals is for students to master “the proper and effective uses of evidence,” highlighting this language in a rubric will support their learning. Similarly, when grading, a rubric helps focus our comments and reinforce our priorities. Rubrics are a valuable tool for teaching students when to worry about what.
Ideally, a rubric emerges from our own teaching. The key words we use in your classroom and on your syllabus — e.g. evidence, data, support, thesis, analysis — should be repeated in the rubric. At the same time, there is no reason to start from scratch. A few sample rubrics are included below. Whenever possible, they are offered as .doc files, so that you can adapt them to your own needs.
Note that the first rubric is not for writing but for class discussion. Again, if we think of rubrics as a teaching tool, it should be clear how, for a student, receiving this rubric early in the semester would outline a way of approaching conversations during the semester and beyond. As with most resources we take the trouble to create, it is important to make time to talk about the rubric as a class, usually early in the semester or whenever students first encounter it.
Holistic essay rubric (Adapted from Engaging Ideas by John Bean)
Using Rubrics in Peer Review
When used to frame faculty feedback to students, rubrics benefit both students (by teaching what to focus on in the writing and revision process) and faculty (by helping us to focus our feedback and respond more efficiently). But students also benefit enormously by applying the criteria themselves, whether to their own work or to a peer’s. For the former, see the section titled “Self-Editing” in “Bringing Writing Into the Classroom.”For the latter, see “Using Small Groups and Peer Review.”