technology tip of the month Pointer and Clicker Article
Virgil E. Varvel Jr.

Creating Rubrics

Before creating a rubric, one must first understand the purpose of the given assessment, because the rubric must be designed to meet that purpose. The six most common purposes of rubrics are listed below. They need not be mutually exclusive in all cases.

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment occurs during the learning process. It can provide information about a student's strengths and weaknesses. It can also be used to assess progress on a project. This information can be used to direct student's learning in the most beneficial manner. Formative assessments do not have to include a grade, but can be used entirely as a learning guide. The assessment can also be carried out by the instructor or by the student.Examples -In the following example, an instructor is assessing student activity in a laboratory course. In addition to a summative assessment at the end, a formative assessment has been designed to make sure that students are on the right track from the beginning, or the entire lab could become an exercise in frustration for the student. The importance is that the rubric is used while the lab exercise is underway, so that the student can use the feedback to help complete the rest of the assignment well. This rubric could be scored, or simply used as a guide for the student. Please note that this example and the others below are somewhat simple and much more detailed ones could be created. We will also discuss the creation of exemplary examples for each cell later.

4 points
3 points
2 points
1 point
Completed Pre-lab (Content) Experimental plan is complete The plan is lacking a few details The plan is lacking several details The plan is lacking significant detail
Timeliness On schedule - Off schedule Off schedule and pre-lab late
Pre-lab questions All correct At least 80% correct At least 60% correct At least 50% correct
Behavior Student has observed safety rules, worked well with others, and remained on task Worked off taks often At least one safety rule violated and worked off task often Safety rules violated more than once, ordered other students around, consistently off task.
Materials Use Correct materials used and identified. - Incorrect materials used in some instances Waste and incorrect materials useage
Data Collection Data collected at all times, accurately, and legibly in lab book. Some data missing Some data is inaccurate and/or at least half of data is missing More than half of data is missing and/or more than half of data is inaccurate or illegible

One of the most important assignments to keep tabs on in many courses is the progess of group work. If the group losed functionality early in the process, the entire assignemnt can be jeopardized. A formative assessment can help to determine whether the groups are on track and working towards the common goal. While this example looks at the group as a whole, individual students could also be assessed. To show some variety, this assessment does not include a score. If something is determined as unsatisfactory, then instructor intervention may be required.

Cohesiveness All members are working well together towards a common goal Several members are in opposition and goals are not at a consensus in a timely manner
Plan Group has a plan to complete the project Group is still working on a plan
Behavior Everyone is cordial and working well together There is significant discord among group members
Progress Progress is being made at or beyond expected level Students are well behind other groups and expected level
Goal The goals of the group are in agreement with the assignment The group is working towards a goal that is contrary to the assignment

Summative Assessment

Summative assessment is conducted after a program of study has been implemented and completed. It is generally used to provide information about a student's current state of knowledge or to determine a student's progress towards an agreed upon set of standards. Summative assessments can also be used to evaluate effectiveness of instruction or a program. They can also be used to direct a student's future learning. That is, based upon the results of one assessment, directions can be given for the next phase or stage of learning or instruction. Summative assessments can build the scaffold upon which students are guided, especially when given to the students prior to being graded. In such a way, they help the students understand the standards expected of them. Also, following the use of a summative assessment, the rubric can be used to provide customized, personalized feedback to the students. As with formative assessments, summative assessments can be carried out by anyone depending on the needs, and they do not have to scored.Example -One of the most difficult aspects of an online course is to fairly and effectively assess participation in discussion. Many methods for this assessment exist. Some of them include rubrics. There are also many types and variations among these rubrics. The following is just one example of a discussion participation rubric that can be used at the end of a course to assign a grade to participation within the course as a whole.

Not Yet There
Not There at
Development of Ideas Well-developed ideas; introduces new ideas, and stimulates discussion (5-6 pts. Developing ideas; sometimes stimulates discussion (3-4 pts.) Poorly developed ideas which do not add to the discussion (1 pt.) Does not enter the discussion (0)
Evidence of Critical Thinking Clear evidence of critical thinking-application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Postings are characterized by clarity of argument, depth of insight into theoretical issues, originality of treatment, and relevance. Sometimes include unusual insights. Arguments are well supported. (5-6 pts) Beginning of critical thinking; postings tend to address peripheral issues. Generally accurate, but could be improved with more analysis and creative thought. Tendency to recite facts rather than address issues. (3-4 pts.) Poorly developed critical thinking (1 pt) Does not enter the discussion (0)
Clarity Posts are well articulated and understandable (4 pts) Posts are understandable, but some thought is required (2-3 pts) Posts are difficult to clarify (1 pt) Posts are unintelligible or not present (0)
Responses to Other Students and Instructor Interacts at least 2 times with other students and/or instructor. (4 pts) Interacts at least once with other student or instructor. (2 pts)   Does not enter discussion (0)
Timeliness Individual messages and at least two responses posted before deadline (4 pts) Individual message posted before deadline but at least one response is late. (2 pts) Posting is made after deadline or both responses late. (1 pt) Everything is late or not completed. (0)


In addition to assessing student performance, rubrics can be used to evaluate instructional design and instructional effectiveness. Evaluative rubrics are often used at the end of a course to view both the course and instructor quality. They typically use a mixed method involving both Likert scaled questions and open-ended short answer questions.Example -One way to use an evaluative rubric is to look at the quality of an experience. They are often used to evaluate instructors after a course. They can also be used to evaluate the course itself. The following example is just one of the many sections used in the evaluations that the Illinois Online Network uses to evaluate Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality courses. Ranking range from Examplary to Not Present in this holistic style rubric.

Structure / Framework of the Course
Criteria Ranking
Home page has appropriate links and announcements. It is inviting and motivating to the students.  
Course menu (or other method of accessing tools and content) contains links to appropriate course tools and content and is well organized.  
Provision is made to solicit and present biographies of the participants of some other form of ice-breaking activity.  
Course materials are well organized and easily accessed. It is obvious to the students where to go to find a specific item.  


Educative rubrics are not intended for grading. Instead, they provide guidelines by which students can learn and study. Such rubrics can be in the form of an evaluation of a self-assessment. Like an advanced organizer, such rubrics can be used to contruct the scaffold on which students will construct their knowledge. They can also allow a presentation of guidelines and expectations.All rubrics can be educative in one form or another. Rubrics can be used to provide customized feedback to students following grading for example, even though the intent of the rubric is more for summative or formative assessment.Example -The following educative rubric is designed to give the students the expectations on an exam. An instructor can always give the students a summative rubric that will be used on an assignment or an advanced organizer to perform the same task given proper instruction. The educative rubric shown next though is more of a guideline on how the student can prepare for the exam. It has been simplified for presentation here, but you should be able to get the idea. There are many other ways to create educative rubrics, as well as all rubrics for that matter. Notice in the following rubric that their current status or study tips are presented after the "-".

Literature Exam Preparation Rubric
Area Self-Ranking High Self-Ranking Average Self-Ranking Low
Characters Know all of the characters - you're ready Know most of the characters - see the character sheet. Find characters you are missing and describe them. Difficulty remembering the characters. - complete the entire character worksheet.
Plot Know the plot of all of the books, including any twists and main themes - you're ready Know most of the plots, twists, or themes - write out the themes of each book. What was the book trying to accomplish? Consider unexpected things that happened in the books. Difficulty remembering the plots - Did you read the books? If so, skim over them to refresh your knowledge of the plot. Otherwise, pray.
Style Understand the style of literature currently being studied. Sort of understand - Think about what the stories had in common whether it is writing style, period written, what was written about, etc. Do not understand - refer to our notes on style. Read them twice.
Books All books read - your ready Most of the books are read - with time, read the others to find out what you are missing. Otherwise, you will have to concentrate on what you have read to get as good a score as possible. None of the books read. - You are probably about to drop this course.
etc. etc. etc. etc.


Rubrics can be used to provide motivation for learners. When rubrics are given out before an assignment is begun (NOTE: There are cases where you do not want to release a rubric, such as when it can give away answers), students know their expectations and can try to meet them. One argument is that some students will reduce their work in an effort to get the B instead of the A. The counter to this argument is that many students without motivation to begin with may not have even received a B had their not been a rubric provided. It is an instructor and class dependent decision. Educative rubrics can also be motivational when the student realizes what s/he does not know and then seeks to learn that information. Motivational rubrics are not so much a class unto themselves as they are a modificaiton of other rubrics for a new purpose. In motivational rubrics, you want to supply students with an explanation of how they can do well on an assignment, perhaps even adding the importance or objectives met, while not providing any information that may give away an answer or procedure that the students are expected to learn or discover on their own.Example -In the following example, the first formative rubric example above has been modified to create a motivational rubric for the students. Grading has been removed, along with sub-par performance measures. They have been replaced with new language and objectives that relate to student real-world wants and needs.

Criteria Requirements Rationale
Completed Pre-Lab (Content) Experimental plan is complete Having a completed experimental plan means that you understand what you are about to do and why. Your time in lab will be shortened and you will nto be frustrated if you know what is going on.
Timeliness Completed on time. No one wants to be stuck in lab for hours. Be prepared and you will get things done on time.
Pre-lab Questions All correct. You should really understand what you are doing and why. You will learn more from the lab and have more time to explore and have fun.
Behavior Student has observed safety rules, worked will with others, and remained on task. Do not make this a bad experience for anyone else, unless you want me to make it a bad experience for you.
Materials Use Correct materials used and identified. If you use the incorrect materials, unexpected and harmful consequences may follow.
Data Collection Data Collected at all time, accurately, and legibly in lab book. You cannot expect to get the answers correct and the grade you might deserve if you do not collect your data carefully in your book so that both you and I can read it.
Reasoning Understand why you are doing this lab. In this lab, we will be extracting DNA for study. Anyone planning to go on and study anything involving DNA should find this lab especially interesting and helpful. Even if this is not the case, you will learn many things of practical importance such as how DNA evidence is collected and analyzed.


All rubrics when given to the students are a form of communication between instructor and students, instructor and family, instructor and administration, etc. They tell how the assignment will be graded or what the expectations of that assignment are. They can tell the students what is expected of them on a variety of activities, even attendance. They are also a way to communicate with students and other interested parties why a specific grade was received on a graded assignment. The one item that can set the communicative rubric apart is when it provides a rationale for final grade as shown in the following example.Example - In this example, a rubric has been modified to give the student a rationale for his/her grade.

Criteria Requirements Reasoning
Completed Pre-Lab (Content) Experimental plan was complete (5 pts) You received full credit on this item. I was pleased with how detailed your plan was.
Timeliness Completed on time (2 pts) As usual, everything was handed in on time.
Pre-Lab Questions 90% correct (9 pts) You misinterpreted item 10. You are not expected to bring into account variability in GATC content for this question. Think about it some more.
Behavior 2 pts No violations were noticed.
Materials Use Correct materials used (2 pts)  
Data Collection Data collected at all time, accurately, and legibly in book. (5 pts) While you could improve your handwriting, you received full points here.
Results All calculations were completed correctly (10 pts.) I could follow all of your calculations and you had the final analysis correct on all points.
Conclusions Mostly correct (9 pts) Your final conclusion on DNA identification was correct, but your arguments concerning additional evidence was somewhat flawed in that you did not have evidence for your assignment of hair samples that went beyond sight.

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