We use cookies to give you a better experience. Carry on browsing if you're happy with this, or read our cookies policy for more information.

Skip main navigation

What is a rubric?

A key component of good assessment and feedback practice is the rubric.
I think if there’s a criteria set before the assignment then it gives a good idea of what to expect, what needs more attention, what’s worth a bit more. In Engineering, it’s a bit hard to judge how well you’re going to do because your maths is either right or it isn’t. But if there is a marking schedule, then it just gives that better indication of the time you’re going to spend. And when you get it back, then you can see which areas you’ve fallen in rather than just seeing a mark on a page. So rubrics and marking guides vary, I would say, very much dependent on course coordinators or course convenience.
So for me, in particular, I find that those that do have standard rubrics that give particular marks or weighted marks per question, per what they’re looking for, they help a lot when I’m doing an assignment or an essay, say. Like it’s not something that you can go out and ask for. And as a student, I’ve been in the position where I have been doing an assignment, and I’m uncertain as to what weight I should be giving parts of an assignment compared to others. And it’s always a bit awkward going to your tutor or to the head lecturer and asking that. Because I feel as though it’s something that should be provided. It should be there.
A marking criteria or a rubric should always be there, but it’s not. So it takes me a lot more effort, and it’s a lot harder for me to go about completing an assignment without a rubric. Yeah, it’s been different from subject to subject. Some subjects will have a really detailed kind of rubric that explains quite clearly what you need to do to get your distinction, high distinction or a credit or what have you. Some don’t have one at all. So it just depends on the faculty and really the lecturer sometimes. I find it really useful to have one. I think it really gives me an idea of what I need to do to maximise my marks.
I care about doing well in my assessments, and when it’s really clearly laid out for me what I have to do to get a good mark, it just makes the job easier as a student to produce a high quality essay or an assignment. So I have had courses which provide feedback online. In my personal opinion, it’s very dependent on who’s marking. So I’ve had assessments that have been given back to me and have had handwritten feedback. And there’s been good handwritten feedback. And the same has happened with online. Like I’ve submitted something by Turnitin, and I’ve received a mark off Turnitin and have been able to download my assignment and see written comments online.
But I mean it goes the other way as well. So I’ve received hard copies of my assignments that I’ve submitted and there might have only been like five ticks and a mark which don’t correlate at all. And the same happens for an online thing. There might be like one or two words and then a mark, and the two just don’t seem to go hand-in-hand. So I think all of my subjects that I’ve done while I’ve been here have used Moodle to often issue assignments. So most subjects issue their assignments by Moodle and also to submit them as well. So the Turnitin programme is used to receive assignments, which I think works well.
Because it means– I don’t live that close to Uni. So it means I can submit things online. It can all run relatively smoothly. And of course, plagiarism, that kind of thing can be checked really easily. But yeah, in terms of getting feedback on my assessments as well, on some subjects I’ve just been given written feedback on a piece of paper that’s given to me. In other subjects, it has been posted online, I think via a programme, which is Grademark, and things like that. Which can be good in some respects– it can be good because the feedback can be delivered really fast, and just with a click of my fingers I can see it in front of me.
Sometimes it is easier to have it written on a piece of paper in front of me so I can just really look through my essay on a piece of paper and see very clearly where they want to draw an arrow to. But either way I think what’s more important, whether it’s done online or done on paper, I think what’s more important than that issue is just that feedback is given. I’ve had some subjects where they’ve just given me a number or a mark or a band, and they haven’t really said why I’ve gotten that mark.
And particularly when there’s no rubric that describes what you need to do to get each mark, sometimes it can be very frustrating when I do the next assignment. Because I want to know where I can improve for my assignments. So yeah, having the rubric there to work from, but then also having detailed feedback that works in with that rubric, whether it’s online or whether it’s just on a hard copy I think is really important as a student.
A key component of good assessment and feedback practice is the rubric.
A rubric, usually in the form of a matrix or grid, makes explicit the assessment criteria and expected performance standards for an assessment task. Well-designed rubrics will align with the course, stream and/or program learning outcomes. Designing and using a rubric is related to requirement 2.1 of the UNSW Assessment Design Procedure (Assessment criteria and performance descriptors). For the Program Assessment we have created a rubric modelled on Biggs SOLO Taxonomy.

Reflection point

Hear students perspectives on the role and value of rubrics for assessment and feedback. Are there points in the video (5:11) where you agree or disagree with the students?
Rubrics for standards-based assessment are made up of three basic elements:
  1. criteria stating the objectives that must be met in the task
  2. a range of performance standards, between highest and lowest
  3. descriptors that describe each level of performance

Benefits of using an assessment rubric.

  • Provides a transparent framework that clarifies assessment requirements and standards of performance for different grades. In this, they support assessment as learning; students can see what is important and where to focus their learning efforts.
  • Allows assessors to give specific feedback to students on their performance and can result in richer feedback to students, giving them a clearer idea where they sit in terms of an ordered progression towards increased expertise in a learning domain.
  • Encourages students to take responsibility for their own learning when they are involved in their construction.
  • Makes students aware of assessment processes and procedures, enhance their meta-cognitive awareness, and improve their capacity to assess their own work when used for self-assessment and peer assessment.
  • Helps teachers develop a shared language for talking about learning and assessment by engaging teams in rubric-based conversations about quality..
  • Helps assessors efficiently and reliably interpret and grade students’ work.
  • Helps teachers target the next steps needed for students to improve their learning as it systematically illuminates gaps and weaknesses in students’ understanding against particular criteria.

Resources for designing rubrics

Many resources are available of examples of rubrics and of tools to help you design rubrics:
  • UNSW Teaching Gateway – A General Learning Rubric gives examples of standards for a range of criteria, and is a good starting point for adapting the rubric for your context.
  • A range of examples are at the end of the Using assessment rubrics brochure
  • Many university learning management systems include a function for designing rubrics, for example, Moodle offers Gradebook

Want to know more?

If you would like to more about this topic on rubrics there are additional resources listed in the Want to know more.pdf for this step.
UNSW. (2016). Using Assessment Rubrics. Sydney: Author.
This article is from the free online

Introduction to Educational Design in Higher Education

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education