Scoring Rubrics:

Why should I use a scoring rubric?

A Familiar Situation

It’s Sunday night at 7 o’clock. The weekend flew by with chores, an unexpected request for a favor from your Aunt Edna, and preparing for and living through your daughter’s sleep over Saturday night. Your best laid plans for completing the grading of term papers Sunday afternoon weren’t accomplished. You reflect back. The term papers were turned in on Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon, you skimmed through three of them, and graded one. Saturday morning, you graded three more before heading out to the grocery store with your daughter’s party food requirements in hand. You completed one more late Sunday morning before you and your spouse headed to Aunt Edna’s to find out what was making that noise in the attic (you found evidence of a squirrel’s nest, which means more work next weekend). Those are the reasons that there still are 14 more papers to read and grade.

You start reading the next term paper. This student can write well, no reading and rereading to find the point in this paper! The student demonstrates that she did a lot of research into the subject of the paper, providing many details. But as you finish reading the paper, you sense that the student didn’t focus on the underlying question behind the assignment, and didn’t synthesize the details she provided into a broad understanding of the problem. You compare this paper to another one, where the writing was disorganized, details were mentioned but were not fully described, but where the student demonstrated in words that she understood the nature and complexity of the chosen problem. What should the relative scores of these two papers be?

It’s now 7:30, and you’re not facing one problem, you’re now facing two! The first is that you have 13 more papers to read. The second is that you really have 18 papers to score, as you’re not sure how to weigh the contributions of the various aspects of the papers. You’re also wondering whether your expectations were made clear enough to the students.

Complete this Check List

Check out the list below (modified from Stevens and Levi). If you answer yes to any of them, a rubric can help. If you answer yes to three or more of them, the amount of upfront time it takes to create a rubric will be more than offset by the time you save.

  • You have a lot to grade and there’s not enough time in the day.
  • You write the same comments over and over again.
  • Students can’t read the comments you write.
  • Students don’t seem to use the comments you’ve made on previous assignments.
  • You’re not sure that you graded the first papers you read in the same way as the last papers.
  • You’re not sure how to provide the details of all your expectations clearly and concisely.
  • You’ve given a long, narrative description of the assignment in the syllabus, but students keep asking questions about your expectations at every class.
  • You’ve worked very hard to explain a complex assignment, yet students still think you’re hiding something important from them.
  • Students can’t explain the assignment to the people at the Writing Center, and the tutors are calling you.
  • You’re using a shared assignment with colleagues, and you wonder if your grading scale differs from theirs.

Introduction to Rubrics by Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia J. Levi
2005. Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA

Benefits of Rubrics to You and Your Students

  • Rubrics help you focus as you read, not only reducing reading time but also helping you know that you are reading each paper in the same way (students get feedback in a more timely manner).
  • Rubrics eliminate the need for writing the same comments over and over again (students will actually be able to READ the feedback).
  • Rubrics help you provide your expectations clearly and concisely (students’ questions will decrease and they no longer will think you are hiding something from them).
  • Rubrics help make the act of grading more objective (students are put on a level playing field).
  • Rubrics help you provide consistent expectations throughout the course (students will begin to use your feedback).

Last modified March 5, 2009


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