General Project and Writing Rubric

Instructor: Cheryl Wells
A rubric is a scoring tool used to evaluate student performance on various types of assignments. This lesson defines the word rubric, introduces you to the current use of rubrics, and familiarizes you with the rubric structure.

What is a Rubric?

If you aren't familiar with the word rubric, you're in good company. According to, fewer than half of the English speakers in the U.S. know what the word means. A rubric is a scoring tool. It is used to evaluate student performance on various types of assignments. A rubric consists of three parts: learning objectives, performance criteria, and numerical values. It defines learning objectives and accesses student performance in meeting those objectives.

Why Use a Rubric?

There are many advantages to using a grading rubric. A well written rubric is particularly useful for grading writing assignments because it:

  • Defines learning objectives
  • Helps teachers maintain grading objectivity
  • Ensures consistency in grading
  • Saves time
  • Specifies grading criteria
  • Encourages student self-evaluation

A writing rubric defines learning objectives for the teacher creating the rubric and for the students completing the assignment. Using a rubric helps maintain consistency in grading because it reminds the teacher of the intent of the lesson. This is especially useful when an assignment spans the length of the grading period or when there are many assignments to be graded. A rubric saves time since teachers don't need to rewrite the same comments on every student's paper.

Using a rubric gives students a roadmap of what's required for success. Distributing a rubric at the beginning of the assignment promotes student self-evaluation. Students can refer to the rubric while completing the assignment and before final submission. When students receive an assignment scored with a rubric, they know what areas need improvement and what areas they understood well.

How Does a Rubric Look?

Rubrics are generally presented in table format, but they can also take the form of lists. In either format, rubrics describe levels of performance associated with the objectives for the assignment.

In a table rubric, the first column contains the learning objectives; the top row contains scores, and subsequent rows contain specific descriptions of performance. The description rows indicate the level of mastery of the objective listed in the first column.

Here's an example of a writing rubric:

rubric example

In this example, the teacher is looking for an accurate and complete thesis statement, paragraphs that support the thesis statement, organization that is clear and easy to follow, appropriate tone, and the absence of major spelling and grammatical errors.

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