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A page within CATL Teaching Improvement Guide

Brief Description

A rubric is a framework and guideline for evaluating students’ performance or work. A rubric describes the criteria used to judge student performance, and distinguishes different levels of quality in student work. It can be used to give feedback about students’ progress as well as judge final performance.


  1. Analytic rubric.These rubrics typically list traits or evaluation criteria in the rows of a table and then describe varying levels of performance in columns using a scale (see below).

  2. Holistic rubric. A holistic rubric uses a single scale or column and then describes all the traits or evaluation criteria in each row.
Analytic vs. Holistic Rubrics

Tips to Integrate Rubrics Effectively

  • Revise the levels of a rubric. Labels should align with the purpose of the rubric.

    • To emphasize students’ progress toward learning goals:    
      • Exemplary, Competent, Developing
      • Exemplary, Accomplished, Developing, Beginning  

    • To emphasize quality of final product:   
      • Excellent, Average, Weak 
      • Excellent, Very Good, Average, Weak, Poor
      • Professional, Adequate, Needs Work, You’re Fired
      • Demonstrated Competence, Satisfactory Response, Inadequate Response 
      • Exemplary, Proficient, Marginal, Underdeveloped

  • Incorporate rubrics into your teaching.

    • Annotate several examples of previous student work pointing out how and why each one fits one of the rubric categories. 

    • Show examples of feedback that are aligned with and address the rubric’s criteria. 

    • Ask students in class to use the rubric to evaluate a piece of work that you provide. They do this individually first and then share ideas in groups. Hold a class discussion to learn how students apply the criteria. This can be an effective way to identify and try to reduce the differences between students’ understanding of the criteria and standards, and yours. 

    • Ask students to use the rubric to assess their own work and hand it in with their assignment. 

    • Ask students to use the rubric for peer review. Students should hand in the reviews they received with their assignment. 

    • Use rubrics for improvement. Give students opportunities to do drafts or revise work based on rubric and feedback.

  • Refine the rubric. Practice using the rubric and revise as needed. First, make sure that it does a satisfactory job of distinguishing levels of performance. Does it include all the essential dimensions that define quality? You can tell it is working well if you can read a set of student work and say with confidence that all the work in the top category really belongs there—that all the pieces have the same level of quality on the critical dimensions. What if you apply the rubric and then discover that work in the same category actually looks different on the critical dimensions? You may not be clear to yourself about what the actual dimensions are (e.g., you could be using some criteria that you have not yet made explicit) or you may be applying the criteria inconsistently (e.g., you may need to define the criteria more carefully so that you can use them without thinking twice about what they mean).

  • Use rubric data to improve teachingGather the ratings across all students in the course and summarize the information to provide insights into the pattern of strengths and areas needing improvement.First look across the traits and create counts or summaries of how many students performed at each level in relation to that trait.  For example, if a trait on your rubric is "quality of reasoning" and you have five performance levels (Unsatisfactory to Exemplary), summarizing the counts of students at each level may help you identify if this trait is something needing more attention in your course.  Pulling exemplars of student works earning the higher or lower ratings on this trait might be useful so you can share examples with students in the future.  At another level, you can create average ratings for each trait and use this to see which traits among those on the rubric are needing more attention (based on higher counts of students at lower levels of the rubric) and make plans to adjust instructions for the assignment or emphasis in course sessions.  


  • VALUE Rubrics from the Association of American Colleges & Universities
  • Walvoord, B. E. & Anderson, V. J. (1998). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers. An outstanding resource full of examples and practical advice about how to design more effective ways to evaluate and grade student work.
  • Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative assessment: Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance.San Francisco, Jossey-Bass Inc., Publishers. The definitive work on how to design rubrics.
  • Stevens, D. & Levi, A. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback and promote student learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Barlow, P., Cerbin, W. and Kopp, B. (2015). Rubrics. In Teaching Improvement Guide. University of Wisconsin at La Crosse Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from