What is a rubric?

What rubrics are: Guides for evaluating student work that establish a shared language among faculty and students for describing how well that work addresses a given learning outcome.

Rubrics typically include multiple specific dimensions, where these dimensions represent different aspects of a given outcome. For example, consider an outcome that reads "students will write research papers that effectively make a scholarly argument." One dimension of this outcome could address the quality of a paper's thesis and another could address organizational structure.

How they work: For each dimension on a rubric, there are multiple levels of performance, defined by criteria that represent a community's consensus on what each level looks like in practice. Essentially, a rubric takes professional and community judgments about qualities of student work and aligns them with a rating scale. 

When to use them: Rubrics can be developed for virtually any type of student work (e.g., papers, presentations, participation in discussions, creative projects, etc.). They are especially good for evaluating higher-order skills or forms of knowledge that are not easily measured by tests (e.g., quality of support for written arguments, quantitative reasoning in real-world scenarios, creative choices given an artist's thematic interests).

Example: A rubric for written communication might include the following dimensions (among others):

DimensionAccomplished (4)Proficient (3)Developing (2)

Novice (1)

Thesis/Central Idea Thesis/central idea is clearly communicated, worth developing, and engaging. Presents a thesis/central idea that can be developed. States thesis/central idea that is weak,
or too broad to be developed.
Attempted thesis/central idea is unclear.
Support and Development Supports ideas with relevant content in a way that shapes the whole work and makes it compelling. Supports ideas with relevant content in a way that is coherent, but falls short of compelling. Demonstrates use of supportive content but assumes that supportive content speaks for itself. Often uses ineffective or inappropriate content (e.g., opinions or clichés) to support points, or offers little evidence of any kind. 


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