Grading Techniques/Using Rubrics

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Creating and using good rubrics can simplify the grading process for instructors and help provide general feedback on class performance on an assignment. Rubrics can also clearly outline to students what is expected for each assignment and satisfy them that their grades are being assigned objectively.

Rubrics essentially detail how marks/scores should be distributed based on the quality of each student’s completed assignment. They can be broken down into sub-sections for each assignment, but to be useful they must be detailed yet easy to understand and follow, so that different individuals using a rubric will award the same marks/scores when they grade the same student assignment.

Holistic rubrics require graders to assess the learning process as a whole without judging individual components on their own, whereas analytic rubrics operate in the opposite way; they require graders to score individual components of a student’s work on their own (e.g. different questions on an assignment) and then sum the total scores to provide one final grade1.

Holistic rubrics may be suitable for some writing assignments if you are happy for students to make errors in individual components providing their final product is still of high quality (e.g. perhaps a few grammatical errors are tolerable when the main learning objective is to research the literature and present a content-heavy essay that is supported by the literature).

Generally, analytic rubrics are preferred when a relatively focused response is required (e.g. when you want to assess student writing ability based on grammar, punctuation and mechanics, structure, content, logic, and use of sources, or if there are many individual tasks that students need to complete in one assignment). Whether you use a holistic or analytic rubric should depend on the assignment and associated learning goals2.