Alice Darling, University of Wisconsin-River Falls

Abstract: This article is about how scoring assignment and project rubrics can enhance student learning. Scoring rubrics provide guidelines for how students are supposed to do certain assignments. Through all students being given specific scoring guidelines, students are able to know exactly what is expected of them and refer back to them as they make progress in their assignment or project. Teachers also benefit from rubrics, as they take away any claims that expectations were not given to students. This article will describe how scoring rubrics allow students are able to gain confidence in the classroom, have scoring transparency between student and teacher, increase consistency in scoring, and facilitate peer-assessment and self-assessment.

Keywords: Rubric, scoring guidelines, transparency, scoring consistency

In academic terms, a rubric is a standard of performance for a defined population. By using rubrics, teachers are able to communicate with students what their expectations are and how they will be graded. A common reason that students are not able to successfully complete assignments is that the expectations are lost in translation between teacher and student. Popular arguments against rubrics include that they block the creativity that students would have if they weren’t given guidelines for assignments or that it encourages students to do the bare minimum of each assignment. Though these arguments may have some truth to them, it is incredibly important to give students guidelines for what is expected of them, especially in the STEM classes. With rubrics, teachers are able to give students a physical copy of what is expected of them for specific assignments. Rubrics cause transparency for the way teachers score assignments, consistency for scoring, and facilitates peer-assessment and self-assessment.

Rubric Attributes

A common rubric can set expectations for students. Teachers may create rubrics in order to organize their expectations for students as well as to organize the scoring for particular assignments. A simple rubric includes criteria, levels of performance, scores, and descriptors (Poor). Rubrics can be holistic or analytic. Holistic rubrics provide a single score based on an overall impression of a student’s performance on a task. Holistic rubrics are good for quick scoring and provide an overview of students’ performance, but unfortunately does not provide details in the feedback. Analytical rubrics provide specific feedback. Analytical rubrics are good for providing detailed feedback and can be more consistent across students and graders, but is time consuming for the graders (Zimmaro, 2004). Both types of rubrics, holistic and analytical, can enhance student learning, but to maximize consistency of scoring and feedback for students, analytical rubrics should be used. Though analytic rubrics are more time consuming for the teacher, analytic rubrics are important for students because of the detailed feedback that they get and the consistency for scoring between teachers and students.

Using Rubrics for Scoring Transparency

Rubrics also allow transparency in a teachers grading policy. When given a rubric, students know exactly what is expected and how things are scored. It is important for a teacher to let their students know how they will be graded so students can set expectations for themselves as they are doing assignments or projects. It is crucial that rubrics are given to students at the same time that the homework is assigned. Students will be able to refer back to this as they are making progress on assignment, especially on projects. Class projects often are spread among several weeks or months, not only will rubrics help students know what they are expected to do, but they can refer to it to know how much each part of a project is worth. By knowing how much each part of a project is worth, students can time manage better by spending more time on parts that are worth more and less of parts that are not worth as much in the total grade of a project. Unfortunately, no rubric can stop students from complaining about certain expectations they are given, but it can stop students from saying that they didn’t know what was expected.

Using rubrics allows students to know exactly what is expected of them. Rubrics can be used for daily assignments, projects or even exams. There can be miscommunication when a teacher is trying to describe an assignment so when the student goes home, they can refer to a rubric to know what they are supposed to do. When students stop paying attention in class, they often do not do the assignment that was given to them, claiming they did not know what to do, but with a rubric, students no longer have the excuse that they did not know what to do. Teachers can also benefit from having scoring transparency. When there are set expectations for every student, and those students know those expectations, it allows for the teacher to dismiss any claims from students that they were unaware of the assignment requirements.

Using rubrics to improve grading consistency

Using rubrics can increase consistency in grading. A rubric can be seen as a regulatory device for scoring. One could say that scoring with a rubric is more reliable than scoring without one. (Jonsson & Svingby 2007) While assessing students work, rubrics can be a useful tool for keeping consistency between the scoring of the same assignments among different students. If a teacher has the scoring guidelines  in front of them as they are grading assignments, it is simple to compare what students expectations were against the finished student assignments.

Using rubrics can also keep scoring consistent over different departments in schools. Commonly, the same classes can be taught by different teachers. A rubric has specific guidelines for what is expected and gives quantitative guidelines for how to score assignments. Individual teachers may have different grading policies, but by using the same guidelines, scoring can become consistent between multiple teachers. Agreement on the important qualities of student’s products can allow more consistent evaluations since the performance criteria do not vary from teacher to teacher. This can increase teacher and student confidence. (Arter & Mctighe, 2001) Rubrics can also improve the way teachers collaborate to collectively make a rubric. Teachers must come together to decide what is expected of their students.

Using rubrics for peer-assessment and self-assessment

Rubrics can offer the opportunity for peer-assessment. After students finish projects or assignments in general, the teacher can disburse the assignment to different students to compare the assignment to the rubric. With specific guidelines right in front of them, students can grade other students with less bias. Teachers can allow students to grade other students since there are specific guidelines and instructions for how to score the assignments. It is advantageous for students who learn how to give and receive feedback (Jonsson, Svingby 2007).

Rubrics also offer the opportunity for self-assessment. Not only will students be able to self-assess their progress on assignments by referring to scoring rubrics, but they will be able to use rubrics to score themselves on their finished assignment. Teachers can assign students to look over their assignment and compare it to the rubric guidelines and give themselves a score. Rubrics can help close the gap between student-assessment and teacher-assessment. Students are more likely to be true with their assessment on themselves than they would be on peer students, since students would be harder on themselves than others. Students can gain life skills such as self-reflection and following guidelines by using rubrics.

Enhancing student learning

Rubrics can enhance student learning. When students are made aware of the rubrics prior to instruction, they know the level of performance that is expected and can become more motivated to learn and reach those standards. Rubrics can make the targets of instruction clear, especially for problem solving, group process skills, and writing (Arter & Mctighe, 2001). Rubrics are easy to understand and easy to explain which is why they have become so popular among teachers, parents, and students. Rubrics often help students make progress on their assignments or projects while also helping students stay on the right track to finish a quality assignment or projects. Student learning can improve greatly through the use of rubrics because of how it makes instruction clear and how it keeps students on track to complete quality home work.

Rubrics can enhance student learning by having consistency in the way teachers score individual assignments as well as keeping consistency between the ways different teachers score the same assignments. Rubrics can also improve student learning by allowing students to peer-assess and self-assess assignments. Through scoring guidelines, students can learn the value of giving and getting feedback from themselves and others. Though rubrics may seem like a simple way to score assignments, rubrics allow for huge growth in the class room by providing transparency in grading, consistency, peer-assessment, and self-assessment.


Arter, J., & McTighe, J. (2001). Scoring rubrics in the classroom: Using performance criteria for assessing and improving student   performance. Corwin Press.

Jonsson, A., & Svingby, G. (2007). The use of scoring rubrics: Reliability, validity and  educational consequences. Educational research review2(2), 130-144.

Poor, E. G. Rubrics for Assessment.

Zimmaro, D. M. (2004). Developing grading rubrics. Retrieved September29, 2008.