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Types of Rubrics

Analytic Rubrics

An analytic rubric resembles a grid with the criteria for a student product listed in the leftmost column and with levels of performance listed across the top row often using numbers and/or descriptive tags. The cells within the center of the rubric may be left blank or may contain descriptions of what the specified criteria look like for each level of performance. When scoring with an analytic rubric each of the criteria is scored individually.

Example Analytic Rubric

Articulating Thoughts Through Written Communication—Final Paper

  Needs Improvement (1) Developing (2) Sufficient (3) Above Average (4)
Clarity (Thesis supported by relevant information and ideas.) The purpose of the student work is not well-defined. Central ideas are not focused to support the thesis. Thoughts appear disconnected. The central purpose of the student work is identified. Ideas are generally focused in a way that supports the thesis. The central purpose of the student work is clear and ideas are almost always focused in a way that supports the thesis. Relevant details illustrate the author’s ideas. The central purpose of the student work is clear and supporting ideas always are always well-focused. Details are relevant, enrich the work.
Organization (Sequencing of elements/ideas) Information and ideas are poorly sequenced (the author jumps around). The audience has difficulty following the thread of thought. Information and ideas are presented in an order that the audience can follow with minimum difficulty. Information and ideas are presented in a logical sequence which is followed by the reader with little or no difficulty. Information and ideas are presented in a logical sequence which flows naturally and is engaging to the audience.
Mechanics (Correctness of grammar and spelling) There are five or more misspellings and/or systematic grammatical errors per page or 8 or more in the entire document. The readability of the work is seriously hampered by errors. There are no more than four misspellings and/or systematic grammatical errors per page or six or more in the entire document. Errors distract from the work. There are no more than three misspellings and/or grammatical errors per page and no more than five in the entire document. The readability of the work is minimally interrupted by errors. There are no more than two misspelled words or grammatical errors in the document.

Advantages of Analytic Rubrics

  • Provide useful feedback on areas of strength and weakness.
  • Criterion can be weighted to reflect the relative importance of each dimension.

Disadvantages of Analytic Rubrics

  • Takes more time to create and use than a holistic rubric.
  • Unless each point for each criterion is well-defined raters may not arrive at the same score

Developmental Rubrics

Developmental rubrics are a subset of analytic trait rubrics.

The main distinction between developmental rubrics and other analytic trait rubrics is that the purpose of developmental rubrics is not to evaluate an end product or performance. Instead, developmental rubrics are designed to answer the question, “to what extent are students who engage in our programs/services developing this skill/ability/value/etc.?”

Generally, this type of rubric would be based on a theory of development.

Example Developmental Rubric

Intercultural Maturity

Domain Initial Level of Development (1) Intermediate Level of Development (2) Mature Level of Development (3)
Cognitive Assumes knowledge is certain and categorizes knowledge claims as right or wrong; is naive about different cultural practices and values; resists challenges to one’s own beliefs and views differing cultural perspectives as wrong Evolving awareness and acceptance of uncertainty and multiple perspectives; ability to shift from accepting authority’s knowledge claims to personal processes for adopting knowledge claims Ability to consciously shift perspectives and behaviors into an alternative cultural worldview and to use multiple cultural frames
Intrapersonal Lack of awareness of one’s own values and intersection of social (racial, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation) identity; lack of understanding of other cultures; externally defined identity yields externally defined beliefs that regulate interpretation of experiences and guide choices; difference is viewed as a threat to identity Evolving sense of identity as distinct from external others’ perceptions; tension between external and internal definitions prompts self-exploration of values, racial identity, beliefs; immersion in own culture; recognizes legitimacy of other cultures Capacity to create an internal self that openly engages challenges to one’s views and beliefs and that considers social identities (race, class, gender, etc.) in a global and national context; integrates aspects of self into one’s identity
Interpersonal Dependent relations with similar others is a primary source of identity and social affirmation; perspectives of different others are viewed as wrong; awareness of how social systems affect group norms and intergroup differences is lacking; view social problems egocentrically, no recognition of society as an organized entity Willingness to interact with diverse others and refrain from judgment; relies on independent relations in which multiple perspectives exist (but are not coordinated); self is often overshadowed by need for others’ approval. Begins to explore how social systems affect group norms and intergroup relations Capacity to engage in meaningful, interdependent relationships with diverse others that are grounded in an understanding and appreciation for human differences; understanding of ways individual and community practices affect social systems; willing to work for the rights of other

King, P.M. & Baxter Magolda, M.B. (2005). A developmental model of intercultural maturity, Journal of College Student Development, 46(2), 571-592.

Advantages of Developmental Rubrics

  • Useful when the goal of evaluation is to determine level of development rather than the quality of a final product.
    • Especially when there is no expectation that students should or could fully develop a skill or ability during the course of their education or potentially ever (such as in “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” there is no expectation people can or will become “self-actualized”).
  • Rubric can be based on relevant developmental theory.

Disadvantages of Developmental Rubrics

  • Conceptually, this type of rubric is more difficult to design.
  • Developing a developmental rubric requires a close tie between assessment criteria and the theory of development.

Holistic Rubrics

A holistic rubric consists of a single scale with all criteria to be included in the evaluation being considered together (e.g., clarity, organization, and mechanics). With a holistic rubric the rater assigns a single score (usually on a 1 to 4 or 1 to 6 point scale) based on an overall judgment of the student work. The rater matches an entire piece of student work to a single description on the scale.

Example Holistic Rubric

Articulating thoughts through written communication— final paper/project.

  1. Above Average: The audience is able to easily identify the focus of the work and is engaged by its clear focus and relevant details. Information is presented logically and naturally. There are no more than two mechanical errors or misspelled words to distract the reader.
  2. Sufficient: The audience is easily able to identify the focus of the student work which is supported by relevant ideas and supporting details. Information is presented in a logical manner that is easily followed. There is minimal interruption to the work due to misspellings and/or mechanical errors.
  3. Developing: The audience can identify the central purpose of the student work without little difficulty and supporting ideas are present and clear. The information is presented in an orderly fashion that can be followed with little difficulty. There are some misspellings and/or mechanical errors, but they do not seriously distract from the work.
  4. Needs Improvement: The audience cannot clearly or easily identify the central ideas or purpose of the student work. Information is presented in a disorganized fashion causing the audience to have difficulty following the author's ideas. There are many misspellings and/or mechanical errors that negatively affect the audience's ability to read the work.

Advantages of Holistic Rubrics

  • Emphasis on what the learner is able to demonstrate, rather than what s/he cannot do.
  • Saves time by minimizing the number of decisions raters make.
  • Can be applied consistently by trained raters increasing reliability.

Disadvantages of Holistic Rubrics

  • Does not provide specific feedback for improvement.
  • When student work is at varying levels spanning the criteria points it can be difficult to select the single best description.
  • Criteria cannot be weighted.


Checklists are a distinct type of rubric – where there are only two performance levels possible.  Checklists tend to be longer than other types of rubrics since each aspect of performance you are looking for in students’ work/performances essentially becomes its own criterion. When you are using a checklist, every decision is binary (yes/no, present/absent, pass/fail, etc.). Most rubrics can be converted rather directly into a checklist.  For example, here is a rubric for grading journal entries: 

Criterion Excellent Good Adequate Poor
Site Visits Notes Every site visit includes good and thoughtful notes about that site Every site has notes, but one or two days are not good/thoughtful notes OR one day of notes is missing Every site has notes, but three of four days are not good/ thoughtful notes OR two days of notes are missing Not every day has good/ thoughtful notes OR more than two days of notes are missing
Class Question Not every day has good/ thoughtful notes OR more than two days of notes are missing   Is missing answers to no more than 8 questions across the site visits Is missing answers to no more than 12 questions across the site visits Is missing answers to more than half of the questions across the site visits
Reflection on Site Visits Provided thoughtful reflection on each of the six site visits Provided thoughtful reflection on at least 4 of the site visits OR provided reflection on all six but two or less were not thoughtful Provided thoughtful reflection on at least 3 of the site visits OR provided reflection on all six, but three were not thoughtful at least 3 of the site visits OR provided reflection on all, but four or more were not thoughtful

Here is the same rubric converted into a checklist:

Criterion Yes No
All Sites have Notes
Sites Notes are Thorough
Site Notes are Thoughtful
Answers all Site Questions for All Sites
Provided Reflection on each of the 6 Site Visits
Reflection on Site Visits was Thoughtful

Advantages of Checklists

Checklists are generally a simpler and faster way to grade than using a more traditional rubric since you are making discrete decisions for each individual performance criterion rather than trying to determine where students’ work fall into performance criteria that generally encompass a range of difference performance expectations.  This also makes the grading clearer to students.  Using checklists may result in less arbitrary (and more consistent) grading decisions. For example, most instructors are clear on what the top performances look like and what the bottom performances look like, but the middle gets fuzzier.  When students understand that their grades will be based on all or nothing decisions, checklists also have the potential to raise the rigor of and students’ performances on our assignments.  

Disadvantages of Checklists

Creating checklists for your assignments might be a slightly onerous process.  This is both because checklists are longer than a traditional rubric and because identifying each of the discrete elements of “clearly written” or “well organized” might be difficult.  You may find that cannot easily convert every performance element you are looking for into a checklist format.  Performance criteria that are difficult to operationalize will also be difficult to convert into a checklist.  It may also be difficult to decide on the exact level of granularity that might be appropriate for each assignment.  For example, “uses good grammar” might be appropriate for most classes, but would be far too broad if you are teaching a course on grammar.  Checklists also lose the middle so there is not a way to award credit to students who get most of the way toward achieving a criterion.