Rubrics and Grading

Assessment rubrics and grading are essential components of effective evaluation practices in education. They provide clarity, consistency, and fairness in assessing student work while offering valuable feedback to guide student learning and growth.

Rubrics serve as structured frameworks that outline the criteria and expectations for assessing student performance. They define the components and levels of achievement that correspond to different levels of proficiency. Rubrics can take different forms, such as holistic rubrics that provide an overall assessment of performance or analytic rubrics that break down the assessment into specific criteria or dimensions.

By using well-constructed rubrics and implementing fair grading practices, educators can provide meaningful and constructive feedback to guide student learning. Rubrics and grading foster transparency, help students understand expectations, and enable educators to assess student progress effectively. They also support communication with students and other stakeholders, facilitating a clear understanding of student achievement and progress toward learning goals.

Creating a Rubric 
The components and structure of a rubric are designed to align with the learning outcomes and provide clear guidelines for assessing student work. A well-designed rubric helps educators evaluate student performance objectively, focusing on specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors related to the desired learning outcomes. Learn how to design effective rubrics that clearly define criteria, performance levels, descriptors, and overall scoring.


A rubric is a tool to communicate your expectations for complex and subjective assignments, making grading more consistent and objective. 

Who’s doing this at UMB? 

The culminating assignment in Dr. Michelle Pearce’s MHS 627, Writing for the Public course, is an opinion-editorial.  To ensure students are effectively using skills covered in the course, Pearce provides them with a comprehensive rubric describing all the elements the op-ed must include, as well as a description of what each element looks like at different levels of performance. Students are encouraged to read the rubric before beginning the assignment to guide their writing. They are encouraged to read it again after they have completed their writing, as a way to self-assess before submitting their work. When the students and instructor both use the grading rubric, there are no surprises when it comes to the final grade.  

How can I do this? 
  • Decide if the assignment is “rubric worthy.” Is the assignment complex, with multiple components? Is it an assignment in which you’re evaluating the quality of the work, rather than providing an objective score? Could students perform at different levels on different aspects of the work, making the entire thing difficult to evaluate? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, a rubric might be helpful. 
  • Break down the assignment into the components you most value. Use the “backward design” approach to identify the specific skills you are looking for in the assignment. For example, Pearce evaluates her students’ opinion-editorials in the following criteria: “Clarity of the Main Argument,” “Interpretation of Results,” “Use of Jargon,” and “Style and Mechanics,” among others. 
  • Determine how to weight each criterion. You don’t have to assign each criterion the same value. In the op-ed example, “Clarity of Argument” is worth a total of 30 points, while “Use of Jargon” is weighted 6 points. (You can also use percentages). 
  • Describe 3 to 4 levels of performance for each criterion. First, decide what you’ll call each level of performance. We recommend language that demonstrates the iterative nature of learning — for example, “Exceeds Expectations,” “Meets Expectations,” and “Approaches Expectations” (rather than “Excellent,” “Fair,” and “Poor.”) Then, describe what “Exceeds Expectations” looks like for each criteria. Use former student products as a guide, and try be clear about your expectations without suggesting students need to follow an exact recipe. Repeat this process for the remaining levels of performance. (Note: The middle levels of performance tend to be the trickiest to write.) 
  • Decide whether to share the rubric in advance. A rubric can be used just for grading, but they are most effective when shared with students in advance to communicate your expectations about the assignment. 
  • Get feedback and revise. Ask former students, your faculty colleagues, or a representative from the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning for feedback on your rubric. You’ll also find areas to tweak after using the rubric a few times.   
Why are rubrics important? 

A rubric will never take all the subjectivity out of grading, but clarifying assignment expectations and describing the levels of performance can help ensure consistency when grading. Courses with TAs or other grading assistants can use rubrics to norm expectations among the group. Finally, giving your students the rubric in advance can help them make decisions about the assignment to align their work with your expectations. It also helps to reduce student questions about why a grade was received.    

How can this be done online? 

Most learning management systems, including Blackboard, have a rubric tool that you can associate with an assignment. The rubric tool allows you to click inside the level of performance for each criteria, and sends those scores directly to the Grade Center. Instructors can also provide written feedback on each criterion and the assignment as a whole. 

For more instruction on how to use a rubric in Blackboard visit:

What is a Rubric?

Other Resources  


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Creating a Rubric by Erin Hagar and Michelle Pearce is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Revised 1/24/2020

Holistic Rubric 
Holistic rubrics offer a comprehensive assessment by evaluating overall performance without breaking it down into specific criteria. They provide a broad overview of student achievement and are often used when the focus is on the overall quality of work or subjective judgment.

What is a Holistic Rubric?

A holistic rubric is an assessment tool that offers a broad and overarching evaluation of a student's performance or work. Unlike analytic rubrics that assess individual criteria separately, a holistic rubric considers the overall quality of the task or project as a whole. It uses a single scale or set of descriptors to provide an integrated and holistic perspective on student achievement.

Key Components of a Holistic Rubric:
  • Performance Levels: Holistic rubrics typically include distinct performance levels that represent different degrees of proficiency. These levels may range from "Excellent" to "Needs Improvement" or "Advanced" to "Emerging."
  • Overall Descriptors: Each performance level is associated with overall descriptors that outline the characteristics of work typical of that level. These descriptors help clarify expectations for students and guide educators in making consistent evaluations.
  • Global Assessment: Holistic rubrics focus on assessing the entire task or performance rather than breaking it down into individual components. This approach emphasizes the overall quality of the work and its alignment with learning objectives.
Advantages of Using a Holistic Rubric:
  • Simplicity and Efficiency: Holistic rubrics are easy to use and save time during the evaluation process due to their inclusive nature.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation: By considering the whole performance, holistic rubrics provide a holistic view of student achievement.
  • Clear Expectations: The use of performance levels and descriptors offers students a clear understanding of what is expected.
  • Promotes Student Growth: Holistic rubrics encourage students to focus on improving overall performance rather than isolated elements.
  • Consistency in Evaluation: Holistic rubrics promote consistent assessment practices across different evaluators.
Effective Implementation of Holistic Rubrics:
  • Clear Criteria: Develop rubric criteria that align with learning objectives and clearly outline each performance level.
  • Provide Exemplars: Share exemplars of work for each performance level to offer visual examples of expectations.
  • Feedback and Reflection: Use holistic rubrics to provide constructive feedback and promote student self-reflection.
  • Training and Calibration: Ensure evaluators receive training to use the rubric consistently and calibrate their assessments.
  • Ongoing Improvement: Continuously review and refine the holistic rubric based on feedback and experiences.

The holistic rubric is a powerful assessment tool that offers educators and students a comprehensive perspective on performance. By focusing on the overall quality of work and using clear performance descriptors, the holistic rubric simplifies assessment while promoting consistent evaluation practices. Students benefit from transparent expectations and opportunities for growth, while educators gain insights into student achievement at a holistic level. As we embrace the transformative potential of the holistic rubric, we nurture a learning environment where every student's achievements are recognized, their potential is nurtured, and the journey of continuous improvement becomes an inherent part of the educational experience.

Additional Resources

Rubrics. Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, University of California, Berkeley.

Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates. Teaching Resources, North Carolina State University.


Creative Commons License
Holistic Rubric by Open AI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Analytic Rubric 
Analytic rubrics assess performance based on specific criteria or dimensions. They provide detailed feedback on each aspect of student work, enabling educators to offer targeted guidance for improvement. Analytic rubrics are particularly useful when evaluating complex tasks or multidimensional skills.

What is an Analytic Rubric?

An analytic rubric is an assessment tool that breaks down a complex task or project into distinct criteria, allowing for a detailed evaluation of each component separately. Unlike holistic rubrics that provide an overall score, an analytic rubric assesses multiple aspects of student performance, enabling educators to pinpoint strengths and areas for improvement with precision.

Key Components of an Analytic Rubric:
  • Criteria: Analytic rubrics include specific criteria or dimensions relevant to the task being assessed. Each criterion represents an essential aspect of the performance or work.
  • Performance Levels: For each criterion, analytic rubrics typically have multiple performance levels that indicate various levels of proficiency, ranging from "Excellent" to "Needs Improvement."
  • Descriptive Scale: Clear and descriptive language is used to define each performance level, providing explicit expectations for students and evaluators.
Advantages of Using an Analytic Rubric:
  • Focused Assessment: Analytic rubrics allow for a comprehensive evaluation of individual criteria, providing targeted feedback.
  • Clarity and Transparency: The use of specific criteria and descriptive language ensures clear expectations for students.
  • Enhanced Feedback: Analytic rubrics offer detailed feedback, facilitating targeted and constructive comments.
  • Informed Instruction: Educators gain valuable insights into students' strengths and areas for growth, enabling personalized instruction.
  • Objective Evaluation: Analytic rubrics promote consistency and objectivity in assessment practices.
Effective Implementation of Analytic Rubrics:
  • Criteria Alignment: Ensure that the selected criteria align with the learning objectives and represent key aspects of performance.
  • Explicit Descriptors: Use precise and descriptive language to define each performance level for clarity and consistency.
  • Use Exemplars: Provide examples of work that demonstrate each performance level to illustrate expectations.
  • Transparent Grading: Share the analytic rubric with students before assessments to foster understanding and transparency.
  • Ongoing Review and Improvement: Continuously review and update the analytic rubric based on feedback and learning experiences.

The analytic rubric is a powerful tool that empowers educators and students to engage in targeted assessment and foster growth. By breaking down complex tasks into specific criteria and performance levels, the analytic rubric allows for focused evaluation and detailed feedback. Students benefit from clear expectations, personalized feedback, and opportunities for improvement, while educators gain insights into students' performance with precision. As we embrace the transformative potential of the analytic rubric, we create a learning environment where assessment becomes a means of learning, feedback becomes a catalyst for growth, and every student's journey toward academic excellence is guided with purpose and clarity.

Additional Resources

Rubrics. Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, University of California, Berkeley.

Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates. Teaching Resources, North Carolina State University.


Creative Commons License
Analytic Rubric by Open AI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Single-point Rubric 
Single-point rubrics are a specific type of rubric that primarily focuses on describing the desired performance level and provides feedback on strengths and areas for improvement. They are flexible and allow for personalized feedback tailored to individual student needs.

What is a Single-Point Rubric?

A single-point rubric is an assessment tool that identifies specific criteria for success without predefined levels of performance. Unlike analytic or holistic rubrics that include multiple performance levels, the single-point rubric focuses on target skills and expectations for students to meet or exceed.

Key Components of a Single-Point Rubric:
  • Criteria: The single-point rubric clearly defines specific criteria for success, outlining what students are expected to demonstrate in their work.
  • Performance Descriptors: The rubric includes descriptors of proficient performance without predefined levels. It provides guidance on what it means to meet the expectations (target skills) without limiting students to a specific grade or level.
  • Feedback Space: The single-point rubric offers space for personalized feedback, encouraging educators to provide specific comments on students' strengths and areas for growth.
Advantages of Using a Single-Point Rubric:
  • Focused Assessment: The single-point rubric directs attention to specific criteria, allowing for targeted assessment and feedback.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability: The absence of predefined levels allows the rubric to adapt to various learning tasks and student abilities.
  • Clear Expectations: The single-point rubric communicates clear and concise expectations for students to meet or exceed.
    Student-Centered Learning: Single-point rubrics promote student ownership of their learning, as they have room to excel and grow.
  • Growth Mindset: The emphasis on improvement and growth encourages students to embrace challenges and strive for excellence.
Effective Implementation of Single-Point Rubrics:
  • Identify Specific Criteria: Ensure the rubric focuses on essential criteria aligned with learning objectives.
  • Include Descriptive Language: Use clear and descriptive language to outline the desired skills and performance.
  • Encourage Self-Assessment: Engage students in self-assessment using the rubric to reflect on their work.
  • Offer Specific Feedback: Use the feedback space to provide personalized comments on students' progress and areas for improvement.
  • Promote Goal Setting: Encourage students to set goals based on the rubric feedback to guide their learning journey.

The single-point rubric is a dynamic assessment tool that empowers educators and students to concentrate on specific criteria for growth and excellence. By focusing on essential skills and providing room for personalized feedback, the single-point rubric creates an environment where students are encouraged to embrace challenges, embrace a growth mindset, and take ownership of their learning. Educators gain valuable insights into students' progress, allowing for targeted instruction and support. As we embrace the transformative potential of the single-point rubric, we cultivate a learning atmosphere where assessment becomes an avenue for growth, feedback becomes a catalyst for success, and every student's potential flourishes in pursuit of academic excellence.

Additional Resources

Rubrics. Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, University of California, Berkeley.

Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates. Teaching Resources, North Carolina State University.


Creative Commons License
Single-Point Rubric by Open AI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Grading Scales and Criteria 
Grading scales and criteria are an integral part of the assessment process. Educators use grading scales to assign scores or grades based on the level of achievement demonstrated by students. Criteria within the grading scale reflect the expectations for each level of performance. Fair and consistent grading practices ensure that students are evaluated based on predetermined standards and that grades accurately reflect their achievements.

What are Grading Scales and Criteria?

Grading scales are systems used to assign scores or grades to students based on their performance. Grading criteria are the specific standards or guidelines used to evaluate students' work, providing clarity on expectations and helping educators make fair and consistent assessments.

Key Components of Grading Scales and Criteria:
  • Grading Scale Categories: Grading scales may include categories such as letter grades (A, B, C, etc.), numerical scales (e.g., 1-100), or descriptive categories (Excellent, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement).
  • Performance Levels: Grading scales often have multiple performance levels within each category, indicating different degrees of achievement or proficiency.
  • Rubric Criteria: Grading criteria outline the specific elements or qualities that will be assessed in a student's work. These criteria may be subject-specific or aligned with learning objectives.
Types of Grading Scales:
  • Letter Grades: A common scale using letter designations (A, B, C, etc.) to represent different levels of achievement.
  • Numerical Scales: Assigning numerical values to student performance (e.g., 1-100) for quantitative assessment.
  • Pass/Fail: A binary scale indicating whether students have met the minimum requirements to pass or not.
  • Descriptive Scales: Using descriptive labels (e.g., Excellent, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement) to provide feedback on performance.
Advantages of Using Grading Scales and Criteria:
  • Clear Expectations: Grading criteria offer clear guidelines for students, helping them understand what is expected of their work.
  • Fair and Consistent: Grading scales ensure consistent assessment, promoting fairness and reducing bias.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Effective criteria facilitate constructive feedback to support student growth and improvement.
  • Motivation and Accountability: Grading scales motivate students to strive for excellence and take responsibility for their learning.
  • Assessment Transparency: Transparent grading criteria foster a better understanding of assessment practices among students.
Effective Implementation of Grading Scales and Criteria:
  • Alignment with Objectives: Ensure grading criteria align with learning objectives and are relevant to the assessed tasks.
  • Communicate Expectations: Clearly communicate grading scales and criteria to students at the beginning of the course or assignment.
  • Rubrics and Checklists: Use rubrics or checklists to provide specific criteria and guidelines for evaluation.
  • Multiple Data Points: Consider multiple sources of evidence, including formative and summative assessments, to make well-rounded evaluations.
  • Regular Feedback: Provide timely and constructive feedback to guide students' progress throughout the learning process.

Grading scales and criteria are fundamental tools that guide the assessment process, providing educators and students with a structured and fair evaluation framework. By offering clear expectations, constructive feedback, and motivation for growth, grading scales, and criteria contribute to a supportive learning environment where students are empowered to excel. As we embrace the transformative potential of grading scales and criteria, we foster a culture of continuous improvement, where every student's achievements are recognized, the potential is nurtured, and learning becomes an exciting journey of exploration and development.

Additional Resources

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Grading Student Work. Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University.

Wartel, A. & Jameton, R. (n.d.). Grading with balance [Blog post]. Center for Teaching and Learning, Lewis Clark State College.


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Grading Scales and Criteria by Open AI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Consistencies and Fairness in Grading 
Achieving consistency and fairness in grading is crucial to maintain the integrity of the assessment process. Educators strive to minimize bias and subjectivity by applying objective criteria and establishing clear expectations for student performance. They employ reliable and valid grading practices to ensure that assessments are consistent and trustworthy.

The Importance of Consistencies and Fairness in Grading

Consistency and fairness in grading are paramount to promoting a transparent and supportive learning environment. They ensure that all students are evaluated against clear and equitable standards, irrespective of individual backgrounds, abilities, or circumstances. By adhering to these principles, educators contribute to students' motivation, self-confidence, and academic growth.

Key Principles of Consistency and Fairness in Grading:
  • Clear Grading Criteria: Establish explicit and well-defined grading criteria aligned with learning objectives and assessment tasks.
  • Consistent Application: Apply grading criteria consistently to all students, avoiding bias or favoritism.
  • Transparent Feedback: Provide timely and constructive feedback that helps students understand their performance and areas for improvement.
  • Formative Assessment: Utilize formative assessment throughout the learning process to offer ongoing support and guidance.
  • Standardized Evaluation: Collaborate with fellow educators to ensure standardized grading practices within the institution.
Effective Strategies for Consistency and Fairness in Grading:
  • Rubrics and Checklists: Use rubrics or checklists to provide clear grading criteria, ensuring transparent assessment.
  • Blind Grading: Consider blind grading, where student identities are concealed during the evaluation process.
  • Multiple Assessments: Utilize multiple forms of assessment to gain a comprehensive view of student performance.
  • Calibration and Moderation: Engage in calibration and moderation sessions with colleagues to ensure consistent evaluations.
  • Student Involvement: Encourage student involvement in self-assessment and goal-setting to enhance accountability.
Promoting Equity and Inclusivity:
  • Culturally Responsive Assessment: Develop assessments that respect and incorporate diverse cultural backgrounds and perspectives.
  • Accommodations and Accessibility: Offer appropriate accommodations and accessibility options to address students' individual needs.
  • Growth Mindset: Foster a growth mindset in students, encouraging them to embrace challenges and learn from mistakes.
  • Addressing Bias: Be aware of potential biases and strive to minimize their impact on grading decisions.

Consistencies and fairness in grading are essential pillars of an effective and inclusive education system. By adhering to clear grading criteria, providing constructive feedback, and applying standardized evaluation, educators create an environment where students feel empowered, motivated, and supported in their academic journey. Prioritizing equity and inclusivity in grading practices enables all students to thrive, fostering a culture of academic excellence and personal growth. As we embrace the transformative potential of consistencies and fairness in grading, we take a significant step toward nurturing well-rounded individuals who are equipped to succeed in their future endeavors and make positive contributions to society.

Additional Resources

Creating and Using Rubrics. Center for Teaching and Learning, Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis.

Equity in Assessment. Center for Teaching and Learning, University of Colorado, Boulder.

Grading Strategies. Centre for Teaching and Learning, Western University.


Creative Commons License
Consistency and Fairness in Grading by Open AI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Weighting and Calculating Grades 
Weighting and calculating grades involve assigning appropriate values to different assessments and determining the final grades based on predetermined formulas. Educators carefully consider the weightage of each assessment component, ensuring that it reflects the relative importance of the learning outcomes.

The Importance of Weighting and Calculating Grades

Weighting and calculating grades are essential to accurately reflect students' achievements and progress. By assigning appropriate weights to various assessments and calculating grades based on consistent methods, educators can provide students with meaningful feedback on their performance and encourage a growth mindset.

Key Principles of Weighting and Calculating Grades:
  • Clear Grading Criteria: Establish clear and well-defined grading criteria for each assessment component, aligned with learning objectives.
  • Weighting Relevance: Assign weights to assessments based on their significance in measuring student understanding and growth.
  • Consistency: Apply consistent grading methods and weights throughout the evaluation process to ensure fairness.
  • Formative and Summative Balance: Strike a balance between formative and summative assessments to provide a comprehensive view of student progress.
  • Transparency: Communicate the grading system, weights, and calculation methods to students and parents to promote understanding.
Effective Strategies for Weighting and Calculating Grades:
  • Weighting Categories: Determine the percentage of each assessment category (e.g., exams, projects, discussions, quizzes, assignments) in the final grade.
  • Grade Calculation Formula: Develop a clear formula to calculate final grades based on the weighted assessment scores.
  • Rubrics and Score Conversion: Use rubrics and score conversion charts to standardize grading and ensure consistency.
  • Automated Grading Software: Use grading software to streamline calculations and minimize errors.
  • Formative Assessment Adjustments: Make adjustments to grades based on formative assessments to acknowledge growth and improvement.
Promoting Student Success:
  • Personalized Feedback: Provide personalized feedback on assessments to support individual learning needs.
  • Goal Setting: Encourage students to set academic goals based on their understanding of the grading system.
  • Redo and Retake Policy: Offer opportunities for students to redo assessments and demonstrate their understanding.
  • Data Analysis: Analyze grade data to identify trends and areas for instructional improvement.
Weighting Grades in Blackboard Original with Categories
  1. Create Categories: Begin by categorizing exams, assignments, and quizzes into specific categories, which might require setting up new categories other than the default ones in Blackboard.
  2. Assign Categories to Columns: Assign categories to appropriate Grade Center columns. This step must be repeated for each assessment or assignment column. Edit column information and choose the respective category.
  3. Weighted Grade Column: Establish a Weighted Total column to calculate grades as per your syllabus. If it doesn't exist, create a calculated column and choose the weighted option. Alternatively, edit the existing weighted column.
  4. Set Primary Display: Determine how grades will be displayed in the Weighted Column. Most commonly, a percentage display is used.
  5. Select Columns and/or Categories: Decide whether you want to weigh columns, categories, or a combination of both. You can add or remove columns/categories to select.
  6. Weighted Column Options: Configure options like including the column in calculations, showing it to students, and displaying statistics.
  7. Calculating Weighted Grades: Blackboard calculates weighted grades based on the assigned categories, combining grades and accounting for weightings. It provides the final weighted grade total.

Weighting Grades in Blackboard Ultra

  1. Formula Construction: You can develop your own formulas using arithmetic operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) and parentheses. Create calculations based on average, total, maximum, or minimum variables like categories, graded items, and other calculations.
  2. Adding Calculations: In the Gradable Items list or student grid view, select the plus sign to add a calculation, then choose "Add Calculation."
  3. Configure Calculation: Give the calculation a title and description, make it visible to students if desired, and choose the display format (Points, Percentage, or Letter).
  4. Formula Building: Use functions (average, total, minimum, maximum), variables (graded items), and operators (add, subtract, divide, multiply) to create your formula.
  5. Validation: The system checks the formula for accuracy; only valid formulas can be saved.

Weighting and calculating grades are fundamental elements in the assessment process, providing students with accurate feedback on their academic performance. By aligning grading criteria with learning objectives, applying consistent weighting methods, and offering transparent communication, educators foster an environment of fairness, accountability, and growth. Empowered by a clear understanding of their progress, students are motivated to set and achieve academic goals, cultivating a culture of continuous learning and improvement. As we embrace the transformative potential of weighting and calculating grades, we empower students to reach their full potential and become confident, lifelong learners prepared for success in their educational journey and beyond.

Additional Resources

Calculate Grades. Blackboard Learn.

Calculate Grades. Blackboard Ultra

Coyne, P., & Woodruff, S. J. (2022). Giving students choice: Does the use of a flexible assessment weighting scheme result in better student grades? International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education33(3), 398-406.

Franke, M. (2018). Final exam weighting as part of course design. Teaching and Learning Inquiry, 6(1), 91-103.


Creative Commons License
Weighting and Calculating Grades by Open AI is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.