Streamline Grading with Rubrics

Streamline Grading with Rubrics

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a big fan of rubrics. When I first started teaching, I was grading 150 sophomore essays every three weeks and working long(er than necessary) hours commenting on all of them. The problem? The comments were redundant, but I wanted my students to know how to improve. I expressed this to an experienced colleague who introduced me to rubrics. I created a rubric for my next round of essays, reviewed it with my students, noticed they demonstrated a better grasp of the assignment, cut my grading time by at least a third, and was sold!

How can rubrics help my students learn?

  1. Understand the nuances of an assignment, ensuring clear expectations for performance levels and how they are assessed.
  2. Determine the difference between levels of performance (excels, meets expectations, needs improvement) and enables them to improve their performance over time.
  3. Build reflective practice into their learning by acknowledging their strengths and providing specific feedback to improve their weaknesses.

How can rubrics help me as an instructor?

  1. Give clear, measurable instructions for the assignments students complete.
  2. Provide detailed, timely feedback regarding student performance on assignments.
  3. Save time and standardize grading from student-to-student or across multiple sections of a course. Rubrics can also be used program-wide to ensure consistency.
  4. Assess student learning while providing the feedback necessary for reflection and growth.

What are the steps in creating an assignment rubric?

  1. Outline the measurable components of the assignment to be graded. For example:
    • Quality of research
    • Presentation
    • Resources
  2. Determine the range of performance you would like to evaluate in these components. Examples include:
    • Unacceptable Needs Improvement, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations, Nailed It!
    • Novice, Practiced, Exemplary
    • Unsatisfactory, Good, Excellent
      Together the measurable components and your range of performance create a matrix where each component can be evaluated across the range of performance.
  3. Describe and qualify each level of performance. I find it’s easiest to start with the highest level of performance and modify the language (and expectations) down. If you get stuck on a level, consider both what it is and what it is not.
  4. Assign a numerical value to each level. This can be a single number, a range of numbers, a percentage, etc.
  5. If time, consider seeking peer or Instructional Designer feedback on a rubric you create before introducing it to students.
  6. Ensure students are clear and practiced on the expectations detailed in the rubric and how it will be applied; after it has been used, seek their feedback and make necessary tweaks over time to ensure it is an accurate reflection of student performance.

How do I use rubrics in Blackboard?

Now that you know the whys and hows of rubrics, don’t forget that they can be built in Blackboard and attached to assignments for quick and easy grading. To learn more, see Blackboard Help’s “Rubric” section.

If you are new to rubrics, consider reaching out to a peer who uses them or searching for a good rubric template online that can be modified to fit your course…or take advantage of the Discussion Board Rubric linked below. It was created for discussions completed at the Masters Level in a program where anything below an 80 is considered “failed.” Notice that student expectations are clear and the assignment has been leveled, both in language and numerical scale, to indicate quality of performance.

Example Grading Rubric for Discussion Board

Category Nailed it! (100%) Exceeds Expectations (95%) Meets Expectations (85%) Needs Improvement (75%) Unacceptable (50%)
Primary Post (35 pts) Response clearly relates to assignment; adds new perspectives to the body of knowledge; concise and substantive; includes evidence-based references; no bias Response clearly relates to assignment; includes information relevant to the body of knowledge;  substantive; includes evidence-based references; no bias Response relates to assignment; includes information related to the body of knowledge, but not expansive; includes references; may include some bias Response not clearly tied to assignment; missing information related to the body of knowledge; includes references, however may be outdated or unrelated; may include bias Response does not address assignment; information is not related to the body of knowledge; references outdated, incorrect, or missing; includes bias
Cross Post (35 pts) Response clearly addresses primary post; adds new perspectives to the conversation; concise and substantive; includes evidence-based references; presents points and counterpoints without bias Response clearly addresses primary post; includes information relevant to the conversation; substantive; includes evidence-based references; presents points and counterpoints without bias Response addresses primary post; includes information related to the conversation, but not substantive; includes references; may include some bias, does not fully address counterpoints  Response does not clearly address primary post; missing information related to the conversation; includes references, however may be outdated or unrelated; may include bias, does not address counterpoints  Response does not address primary post; information is not related to the conversation; references outdated, incorrect, or missing; opinion presented as reference; includes bias; counterpoints not included 
Collegial Interaction (15 pts) Commentary facilitates professional discussion throughout the week; synthesizes evidence-based references in response; conversational in nature; posted beyond the number required Commentary encouraging professional discussion throughout the week; incorporates evidence-based references in response; conversational in nature; posts meet the number required Commentary encourages discussion throughout the week; includes references in response; may be too conversational in nature; posts meet the number required Commentary does not build discussion; may be posted in one day; includes references, however may be outdated or unrelated; conversation too informal or lacking professionalism; post does not meet the number required Commentary ends discussion; posted in one day; references outdated, incorrect, or missing; conversation too informal and not professional; posts substantially miss the minimum expectation
Annotated References (15 pts) Annotated references are evidence-based, primary source of information Annotated references are evidence-based, primary source of information Primary source of information is author- rather than evidence-based or potentially outdated Primary source of information is inappropriate and/or outdated Professionally inappropriate sources referenced; references missing or lacking

Accessible & Print Version of Grading Criteria Rubric for Discussion Board

Bibliography & Resources

 Andrade, H., & Du, Y. (2005). Student perspectives on rubric-referenced assessment. Practical Assessment, Research and Evaluation,

     10(3), 1–11.

Brookhart, S. M., & Chen, F. (2014). The quality and effectiveness of descriptive rubrics. Educational Review, 67(3), 343–368.

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

Back to top