Category Archives: Of rubrics

These postings relate to my sabbatical work on researching and creating rubrics.

Another rubric for creative assignments: short stories

I have used a holistic, comment-based rubric for my short story assignment in Creative Writing for several years. After reading all this information about rubric, I decided to revise it into a point-based, more analytic rubric. I also changed the point values because the short story ends up being one of the longest assignments in the class, so I changed it from 100 to 150 points (I plan to decrease the points in their literary critique since that is a shorter overall assignment). I hope this new rubric makes the expectations of the assignment clearer to students and make grading more objective and clear.


Here is my original rubric (with examples of comments and a grade):


Short story rubric 



Fiction technique Description Your story Comments
Character development Are the characters well developed through a variety of character techniques (such as dialogue, using gestures, observations, etc.)?


ok Good character but I wanted to know more about her—and see her more in action. So much of the story is summary that we only get general info on her.
Plot Is the plot interesting and original? Is the plot condensed enough to develop in the length of the story?


ok Good idea for plot—just need more scenes and less summary to make the story more effective.
Story beginning Does the story start with action or dialogue instead of summary?


Needs work It’s most effective to start with dialogue and/or action. You begin more with an introduction or summary.  I would suggest just starting with the first scene—let the background  of the characters come out through the plot.
Scenes Does the story contain scenes that let the characters act and move and not just a summary of events or time periods?


Needs work Good at the start but try to let the action and dialogue show things—try not to explain everything. Also you need more scenes—to really move the action along and help the readers get into the story and characters.
Grammar and style Does the story contain college-level writing and an interesting writing style? Are there too many grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors?


Needs work Avoid using second person (you) in fiction.  Also some comma splices, apostrophe errors, run-ons, and other errors are getting in the way of your ideas.
Dialogue Is the dialogue in the story natural and realistic? Does it help develop characters, action, and scenes?


ok Use a comma between speaker and dialogue. Just need more dialogue in scenes.
Setting and detail Are the setting and details in the story well developed and unique?


Good Great detail about the city but need more details in some places–scenes would help with that.
Overall comments Great start here–see comments above for ways to improve the story.    
Grade 84/100 B  





Here is the first draft of my new rubric:


Short Story Assignment 

            Write a short story (possibly using a character/characters you have developed in class assignments (week three discussion assignment). Think about all the elements of fiction which the fiction lessons and your textbook discuss.  Try to write a unique story in your own writing style.  Try not to fall back on common plots, stereotypical characters, etc.

Length:  6-25 pages (1200-6000 words)

Format: Double-spaced, in RTF format.

                Name the file as:  yourlastname_story  (for example: swing_story)

                Make sure to have title page with name, name of story, date, etc.

                Make sure to start a new paragraph when a new character speaks.

                Make sure to use correct capitalization, spelling, and grammar. See this website for grammar review if needed:




Fiction technique Excellent On the right Track Needs Development Comments


50 points

□   Plot is original and surprising (had tension), but not shocking. It engages audience throughout story.

□   The plot is condensed enough to develop in a short story (time is condensed)

□   Beginning of the story engages audience and begins with action or a scene and not summary or background.

□   Ending is satisfying even if it’s abrupt or doesn’t wrap up all ideas.

□   Story meets word requirements.

□   Plot is interesting but may contain some confusion, clichéd ideas, or vagueness.

□   The plot is fairy condensed but may span too much time or have too much history or summary.

□   Beginning of the story is interesting but may have too much summary and not enough action.

□   Ending is ok but could be more satisfying or original.

□   Story meets word requirements, but needs to be longer, ideas need to developed further.

□    Plot is not engaging, doesn’t contain tension, or is clichéd.

□   The plot tries to cover too much time or is confusing to follow.

□   Beginning of the story has too much summary and background—needs a scene and action.

□   Ending is clichéd, shocking, or unbelievable.

□   Story does not meet minimum word requirements.

Character development


20 points

□   Characters, especially main character, is developed well through multiple techniques (dialogue gestures, description, action, etc).

□   Characters are unique and not stereotypes or one dimensional

□   Character relationships are well developed and interesting.

□   Character makes some significant change in the story.

□   Characters, especially main character, is developed well but needs more showing and less telling. Need to have the character in action more.

□   Characters are interesting but may be a bit stereotypical or one dimensional at times.

□   Character relationships are interesting but may need more development.

□   Character makes some changes but they might not be enough or realistic based on the plot of the story.

□    Characters, especially main character, are not developed enough. Need action, dialogue, background, etc.  

□   Characters are stereotypical or one dimensional.

□   Character relationships are not developed or unrealistic.

□   Character does not make any significant or realistic changes throughout the story.



20 points

□   Multiples scenes are used in the story to show and not tell the story

□   Scenes are in a clear and logical sequence even if flashbacks are used

□   Scenes are interesting and effective

□   Story has some scenes that develop ideas, but may need more scenes and less summary.

□   Scenes are in a clear order but may need some reorganization.

□   Scenes are good but may need more action or tension

□    Story is mostly summary and needs scene to develop characters, tension, and ideas.

□   Scenes are not in a clear order and are confusing.

□   Scenes are unrealistic or uninteresting or unoriginal.



15 points

□   Dialogue is natural and not stilted or awkward

□   Dialogue is effectively used to develop characters, give character background, and develop tension.

□   Dialogue uses correct quotation mark placement and  is indented with each new speaker


□   Dialogue original but may be stilted or inconsistent at time (need to use contractions, for example)

□   Dialogue gives some character and plot details but could be used more to develop those traits.

□   Dialogue uses mostly correct format, but may need some corrections like a comma between speaker and quotation or correct indentation.


□   Dialogue is not used enough or is stilted and/or inconsistent (need to use contractions, for example or character’s voice changes)

□   Dialogue needs to be used to develop characters and details more effectively.

□   Dialogue does not follow correct format (indent with each speaker, comma between speaker and quote, correct quotation marks, etc.)


Grammar and style


20 points

□   The story is written using college-level writing skills in a professional manner.

□   The story does not contain many errors in spelling, sentences errors, pronoun use, apostrophes, or other errors.

□   Style of the story is consistent and engaging and not wordy or overly passive.

□    Story uses appropriate and consistent point of view.

□   The story is written at college level but may have some inconsistencies.

□   The story contains some errors in spelling, sentences errors, pronoun use, apostrophes, or other errors.

□   Style of the story is mostly consistent and engaging but may have some wordiness, vagueness, etc.

□   Story uses appropriate point of view but may shift once or twice.

□   The story is not written at college level.

□   The story contains many errors in spelling, sentences errors, pronoun use, apostrophes, or other errors.

□   Style of the story is inconsistent and engaging contains too much wordiness, vagueness, etc.

□   Story shifts point of view multiple times and for no logical reason.

Setting and detail


15 points

□    Setting in the story is clear, unique, and well developed.

□   Setting is an important part of the plot or tension in the story.

□    Details in the story such as colors, clothes, music, objects, are unique and used to develop characters and plot.


□   Setting in the story is clear but could developed further.

□   Setting could be used more as part of the plot or tension.

□   Some of the details in the story such as colors, clothes, music, objects, are unique but could be used more to develop characters and plot.

□   Setting is vague or unclear.

□    Setting has no relationship to the plot or characters.

□   Story needs more details like colors, clothes, music, cars, landscape, etc. to develop characters and plot.

Paper format


10 points



□   Story was submitted on time in the dropbox with correct file name.

□   Story follows paper format (double-spaced, one in margins).

□   Story has unique title and correct heading.

□   Story was submitted on time in the dropbox with correct file name.

□   Story follows paper format (double-spaced, one in margins) with one or two minor errors.

Story has a title and heading but may have some errors.

□   Story was not submitted on time in the dropbox and or has an incorrect file name.

□   Story does not follows paper format (double-spaced, one in margins).

□   Story has a not title and/or no heading.

Overall comments        
Points / Out of 150 points Grade:    






My Rubrics: College Composition I final exam

Finally, after all the research, I feel more confident in writing rubrics. I also feel more justified in the need and use of them. I am excited to try some student-generated rubrics, and I also want to use rubrics as a department. In that spirit, I have created a draft of a rubric to use for the College Composition I final exam. I plan to present this to the department to start some discussions about conistency and standards for the exit exam.


Here is the draft:


College Composition I Final Exam


To pass the course, students must receive a “D” or better on a departmentally-administered final examination of 500-700 words.  The final will be written using word processing skills during the assigned final exam period.  A standard dictionary may be used during the final exam. 


TASK DESCRIPTION: Write a clear, professional essay of 500-800 words on a topic given by the instructor. A mode of writing may also be given. 


DIMENSIONS Exceeds outcomes Meets outcomes Does not meet outcomes Comments and points

Content and purpose

40 points

□    Paper has a clear, original, and interesting thesis or focus that engages audience and has a clear purpose.□    Content of the paper demonstrates complex and creative ideas and thoughts.□    Thesis and ideas are supported with specific and interesting examples and details appropriate to audience.

□    If sources are used, they are used appropriately, introduced and given credit.


□    Paper has a thesis that focuses the paper and has a purpose and an audience.  □    Content of the paper demonstrates specific ideas and thoughts.□    Thesis and ideas are supported with examples and details.

□    If sources are used, they are introduced or given credit.


□    Paper does not have a clear thesis, purpose, or audience.   □    Content of the paper demonstrates only simple thoughts or ideas and may not meet word requirements.□    Thesis and ideas are not supported with examples and details.

□    If sources are used, they are not clearly introduced or cited.  




25 points


□    Paper is effectively organized, and paragraphs tie back to thesis.□    Paragraphs are clearly focused and linked together.□    Paper has an engaging and clear title, introduction, and conclusion.


□    Paper has a clear organization, but ideas might not always tie to thesis.□    Paragraphs are focused but may lack transitions.□    Paper has a title, introduction, and conclusion.


□    The paper’s organization is unclear or ineffective.□    Paragraphs are unfocused and lack transitions.□    Paper does not have a title, introduction, or conclusion.


Style and point of view 20 points □    Paper shows a unique style created through sentence and word choice.□    Style is consistent and appropriate to audience.□    Style is economical with no unneeded words or passive construction.

□    Point of view/pronoun use is clear and consistent.

□    Paper has an identifiable style.□    Style is mostly consistent and appropriate to audience.□    Style may have some vagueness or wordiness.

□    Point of view/pronoun use is mostly consistent and clear: may have some errors or shifting.

□    Paper has no clear style or tone.  □    Style is inconsistent or inappropriate to audience and purpose.□    Style is wordy, vague, and passive.

□    Point of view/pronoun use inconsistent and unclear.  


 Professionalism15 points □    Paper has correct heading and formatting (1 inch margins, 12 point font), and page numbers.□    Grammar and punctuation are used effectively to enhance ideas in the paper. Errors are minimal.□    Sentences are varied and fit with ideas in the paper.


□    Paper has mostly correct heading and formatting (1 inch margins, 12 point font), and page numbers—may have small errors.□    Grammar and punctuation are used purposefully, and errors in grammar and syntax are few and do not distract from paper’s meaning or style.□    Sentences are clear but may be unvaried. □    Paper does not have correct heading, formatting, or page numbers.  □    Grammar and punctuation errors get in the way of the ideas in the paper.□    Sentences are unvaried, vague, and confusing.  
Total Points: 100       Grade:



Overall Comments:

Complete Rubrics, the final chapters

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapters 10-12: These chapters deal with many of the concepts I learned from Introduction to Rubrics, so I’ll just summarize the information and give interesting ideas. The last two chapters deal with report cards and websites/resources, so I’ll skip those.


Chapter 10: How to Create your Own Rubrics.


Quinlan uses methods very similar to the Intro to Rubrics book in this chapter. She asks rubric creators to follow ten steps:


  1. 1.       Focus on clear outcomes
  2. 2.       List three or four critical attributes of the performance/project.
  3. 3.       Describe the expected qualities or attributes—the standard.
  4. 4.       Develop statements that describe or define those qualities of performance short of expectation and beyond expectations.
  5. 5.       Decide if the rubric will be analytic or holistic.
  6. 6.       Research other rubrics.
  7. 7.       Evaluate—Present the rubric to colleagues and students for  input.
  8. 8.       Do a practice test or a dry run if possible.
  9. 9.       Revise as needed.
  10. 10.   Share information. (Quinlan 168, Box 10.1)



Most of these steps have already been covered. I do like the idea of doing a practice run, but most likely the practice run would be the first time one uses the rubric in an assignment. As most instructors know, that’s the real test of any assignment or assessment.



Chapter 11: Student-Generated Rubrics


In this chapter Quinlan spends a good amount of time talking about student centered or learning centered teaching. Involving students in rubric creation really puts the students in the center of their own learning. She, too, suggests the four by four method for having students create rubrics. She also gives some useful suggestions about how to teach students about rubrics—from a basic elementary level to college classes. I definitely plan to try a student generated rubric in my comp 1 class this fall.


Chapter 12: Teaching Others to Use Rubrics


In this chapter, Quinlan gives some very clever ideas of how to teach teachers to use rubrics. Her main suggestions for those new to rubrics are:


  • Begin with a familiar activity or project.
  • Research sample rubrics.
  • Don’t expect perfection.
  • Begin with the standard or benchmark and then describe work beyond and below that standard.
  • Don’t try to assess everything in one assignment.
  • Work with peers.
  • Get student input. (Quinlan, 193, Box 12.1).



Then Quinlan describes several models to illustrate rubric creation from the restaurant model to the potato chip model to the clean room rubric.

Complete Rubrics: Rubrics for Online Activities

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter 9: Rubrics for Online Activities


Chapter 8 deals with using rubrics for computer products, so I didn’t think that was too relevant to my discussions. However, Chapter 9 looks at many ways an instructor can and should use rubrics for online activities.  At first, I thought this really wouldn’t be any different from using rubrics in any other assignments, but Quinlan gives some excellent examples and rationale for creating rubrics for online assignments. Partly because students use the internet so much and because they are often advanced in their skills—even beyond the instructor’s technology skills, students may find rubrics help guide them in their use of technology (147-48).


Quinlan spends the first part of the chapter talking about digital plagiarism and gives some examples of simple rubrics that can be used to teach students ethical rules and guide their use of source  material online. Then she gives some great example of using rubrics to assess the information on the internet, to evaluate sources. I will definitely use these ideas in my comp II classes. Interestingly, most of her examples are rubrics that teachers can use to assess technology (how an instructor can evaluate a website, for example, and see if it’s appropriate for the grade level, assignment, etc.). However, I can see using these kinds of simple rubrics to have students evaluate their online sources too.


Quinlan then gives some examples of how to use rubrics to assess chat rooms, threaded discussions, and even blogs. Great examples and ideas! I like the way she is using rubrics to help teachers evaluate and improve their own resources and lessons. She does give some good examples, too, of how to use these to assess student works too—like criteria for blogging. I would like to create something like this for my journal assignment in creative writing—where students can use a blog or handwritten or typed journal. Often students flounder a bit on how to complete this assignment. A rubric might help.

Complete Rubrics, Chapter 7: Adult Learners

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter 7: Rubrics with Adult Learners


Quinlan begins this chapter with a discussion of adult learner stages. Most post-secondary students are in Erickson’s early Adulthood (19-40) stage, which means their main conflict centers around intimacy versus isolation, “which means that they will either be able to form meaningful relations with others or remain self-absorbed” (100).  Some of our students may be in middle or even late adulthood, and they deal with generativity versus stagnation or ego integrity versus despair respectively (100).  Quinlan also talks about the difference between pedagogy and andragogy (teaching adults). Basically, andragogy focuses more on independent learning and using the students’ wealth of knowledge and experience more in the learning experiences (101). 


Quinlan gives Mark Tennant’s book Psychology and Adult Learning (1997) as a resource for recommendations for teaching adult learners. According to Tennant, adult educators need to:


  • Value the experience of the learners
  • Engage in reflection of the learners’ experiences.
  • Establish the environment or spirit of a community of learners.
  • Empower the students.
  • Assess each student as an individual.
  • Encourage learner to discuss conflicting points of view.
  • Help students to identify the social, historical, and cultural bases for their experiences.
  • Encourage a wiliness to make changes based on learning experiences. (102)


These characteristics are pretty clear to those of us who teach college, especially non-traditional learners who don’t need lecture and direction as much as guidance and information.


Quinlan then goes into a discussion about grading and about grade inflation, wondering if professors don’t spend enough time grading—or at least enough time communicating their grade decisions to students. Rubrics are, of course, the answer to communicating grades clearly and as objectively as possible (103-06).


The rest of the chapter gives numerous examples of rubrics that are or can be used in post-secondary work, from research papers and dramatic performances to instructor evaluations and self-assessments for classroom lessons and preparedness.

Complete Rubrics, Chapter 6

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter 6: Using Rubrics in High School


Chapters 3-5 deal mostly with using rubrics in elementary and middle school. Although some of the ideaa apply to any rubric making, most of the content is specific to K-8 and not relevant to my studies. However, I did learn, through Quinlan’s explanation of developmental stages, that my five and a half year old’s obsession with being first (at everything including eating her oatmeal and getting to the bathroom) is completely on track from a developmental point of view. Evidently wanting to cheat at games and interrupting are part of this lovely social developmental stage. My favorite story in chapter 3 echoes my own experiences being the parent of a kindergartener:


“Parents of a precocious 6-year-old were concerned to see this comment on their son’s otherwise excellent report card: ‘Talks! Talks! Talks!’ The teacher should have added, ‘normal, normal, normal’”(39).


In all seriousness, though, thinking about social, physical, and cognitive development at any age is useful when planning lessons and, even more so in an environment with multiple ages present, in dealing with individual students.


In Chapter Six, Quinlan discusses the developmental stages of high school age students, noting that many vary in their placement. However, in general 14-17 year olds are moving toward adulthood and are concerned with what they will become (78). Since our college has a fair number of PSEO (Post Secondary Enrollment Option) students or High School Honors students who are still 16-17, I thought this chapter was worth reading.  It seems 16-17 year-olds still primarily use concrete thinking instead of operational thinking. Practically, this means high school students may struggle more with abstract thinking or problem solving (80). Their social lives are still more important than their academic pursuits, but they are learning to set goals, see others’ perspectives, and understand their own minds more (80-81). I can see using this chapter as a reference since I have many high school students who take my classes, especially Creative Writing.   In the rest of the chapter, Quinlan gives examples of how rubrics may be used in high school assignments, even giving an example of how the writing portion of the SAT uses a 6 point rubric to assess competency. She also gives examples of how to use a rubric to assess group projects and tailor both the assignment and the rubric to help students succeed in their strengths while holding them accountable for participating in the group.

Complete Rubrics: Chapter Two

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.



Chapter Two: Checklists, Performance Lists, or Rubrics


 In this chapter Quinlan talks about how rubrics aren’t right for every assignment or for all parts of all assignments at least. She starts the chapter talking about the three kinds of learning objectives: “cognitive (information and knowledge), psychomotor (physical actions), or affective (attitudes)” (17).  She discusses Bloom’s taxonomy and its relation to cognitive objectives. She gives a nice chart on pages 18-19 that breaks down Bloom’s categories and gives instructional objectives and verbs for each category: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. I did a quick search and found another page from Clemson University that includes similar information:


Psychomotor learning objective include anything that students must physically complete, from handwriting to archery to lab experiments to building robots. Quinlan cites Heinich, Molenda, and Russell to describe “four levels of the psychomotor objectives: imitation, manipulation, precision, and articulation” (17). 


Affective learning objectives include attitudes and feelings about learning, which have to be evaluated by self -disclosure or through observation, so they are often “the most difficult to measure and evaluate” (17).


Quinlan next discusses using simple checklists to measure any of these kinds of learning objectives whether it’s completing a map or learning to spike a volleyball or even enjoying an activity (uses terms like “volunteers, joins in, cooperates, enjoys” (20). I can imagine using a checklist for group projects in my Comp I class or for the parts of the research paper in Comp II (instead of a multi-part rubric).


Here is an example of how I might use a checklist:


Checklist for College Composition II research paper


____ Brainstorming idea with class group


____Summary One


____Summary Two


____Topic selected and approved


____Outline and planning completed


____ Initial research completed


____Draft of paper completed


____Peer review of group drafts completed


____Grading conference with instructor completed


____Revision of paper into final draft completed


____Evaluative paper completed




This kind of checklist would be useful for the student and the instructor, to keep the student on task and for the instructor to have one clear sheet with the student’s progress.


Next Quinlan talks about using an expanded checklist to do simple evaluation of parts of a tasks, using perhaps a check, minus, plus sign system to show students how well they completed the parts of the checklist. Again, I can see this being useful in a large individual or group project where not every part is graded individually.


The next type of tool discussed is a performance list, which uses a checklist format but assigns points to each task.


I could use a performance list for my group grammar presentations. One might look like this:


Group Grammar Presentations

100 points


Group Participation (25 points—5 points each)


___ Took a clear role in the group


___Completed a fair share of the work


___Got along with members (avoided or dealt with conflict)


___Communicated with members effectively


___Attended regular group meetings



Grammar Knowledge (50 points—10 points each)


____ summarized grammar concepts


____identified important terms accurately


____produced several original examples of each error


____corrected example errors accurately

____ answered any questions accurately and thoroughly


Presentation Skills (25 points—5 points each)


____ involved audience in presentation


___ Created an organized and visually appealing display


___Spoke clearly and loud enough


___Made eye contact with audience


___Displayed use of professionalism and standard English usage



Finally, Quinlan moves on to using rubrics. First, she explains the advantages to rubrics: they provide clear expectations, they let students know the benchmarks of the assignments, they let student see themselves in relation to clear objectives, they create more fairness and consistency in grading, and they “provide teachers with data to support grades” (26).


Quinlan talks about both 4 point or 6 point and holistic or analytic rubrics.   


 In a four point rubric, #4 would be “exemplary performance;” #3 would be “proficient…[s]olid performance or understanding;” #2 would be “partial understanding…emerging or developing; makes errors;” #1 would be “minimal understanding…has serious errors or misconceptions;” and 0 would be “[n]o attempt made” (27). In a 4 point rubric, a 3 is the “standard” (27).


In a 6 point rubric, the levels are: 6= “Exemplary achievement ;” 5= “Commendable achievement;” 4= “Adequate achievement;” 3= “Some evidence of achievement;” 2= “Limited evidence of achievement;” 1= “Minimal evidence of achievement;” and 0= “No response” (27). In a 4 point rubric, a 5 is the “standard” (27).


In a holistic rubric, the instructor includes all components or dimensions of an assignment in one category and assesses them together.


For example, for a general writing assignment that any instructor might assign, a simple 4 point rubric could be done holistically as follows:


4 points (exemplary)


Focus: has a clear focused thesis that is specific, original, and appropriate

Organization: has clear and developed paragraphs with specific topic sentences that relate to thesis

Content: uses specific examples or support for thesis and ideas

Style: uses appropriate and professional words and varies sentences

Grammar: adheres to Standard English conventions and has few or no errors


3 points (competent)


Focus: has a clear focus for the paper

Organization: has clear paragraphs that relate to thesis

Content: supports thesis

Style: uses clear appropriate language

Grammar: adheres to Standard English conventions with only slight errors that do not hinder communication


2 points (developing)


Focus: focus for the paper may be unclear or change

Organization: paragraphs may not relate to thesis or be clearly focused

Content: has some support but needs more to develop the thesis

Style: may use some inappropriate or inconsistent words or sentences

Grammar: has some errors in Standard English usage that may interfere with communication


1 point (unsatisfactory)


Focus: no clear focus for the paper

Organization: no clear paragraphs or no connection between paragraphs and thesis

Content: thesis is unsupported

Style: inappropriate or inconsistent words or sentences primarily used

Grammar: many errors in Standard English that interfere with communication


0 points

Did not complete


Although I can see the usefulness of this kind of rubric, the problem is that it doesn’t tell a student why he or she specifically received a 4 or a 2. Often a student may do well in organization, for example, but poorly in support and grammar.


The analytic rubric lets the instructor break down the points more specifically. For example, the rubric would be broken down into its dimension, like this:




4. has a clear focused thesis that is specific, original, and appropriate

3. has a clear focus for the paper

2. focus for the paper may be unclear or change

1. no clear focus for the paper

0. no attempt



This is much more like the rubrics displayed in the Introduction to Rubrics book-which I think are most useful.


A Complete Guide to Rubrics, Chapter One

Quinlan, Audrey M. A Complete Guide to Rubrics: Assessment Made Easy for Teachers, K-College. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2006. Print.


Chapter One: Background: What is a Rubric and Why Bother?

 Like the Introduction to Rubrics book, this text begins with creating a need for rubrics, especially in subjective grading matters like papers or presentations. The author uses the idea that teachers, especially teachers who have been teaching and grading a long time, instinctively know what grade an assignment deserves by looking at the assignment. In some ways, I think this is true. I tend to be a holistic grader and I do usually know a clear A, B, C or F paper. However, assignments aren’t always that clear either. It’s the B+/A- papers or the D papers that can still stump me at times even after 18 years of grading student essays. Of course, the main problem with instinctual or holistic grading is communicating the grade clearly to the students and making comments useful so the student can improve performance.  I agree with this. Even though I may write extensive comments on a paper, I still have students quibble over the 88/100 grade at times (although not as often as they probably should).  Using rubrics would communicate much more specifically why the student received the 88%.  I have to say that I’m already pretty sold on rubrics, but this book has given me even more reasons.


The author talks about theories in educational development and shows how rubrics can be useful no matter what kinds of learning theories an educators adheres to.


On pages 9-11, Quinlan breaks down 10 learning theories and how rubrics can be used effectively within their frameworks.  


  • For Vygotsky’s Constructivism theory, “[s]coring and instructional rubrics provide for both [actual achievement and zone of proximal] levels of achievement” (9).


  • For Skinner’s Behaviorism theory, “[r]ubrics can be designed with memorization tasks, but are not usually necessary. Rubrics can be used to help in the development of test items” (9).


  • For Piaget’s Development Theory, “[r]ubrics provide for individuality” (9).


  •  For Brain-Based Learning theories (Sylwester; Jensen), “[s]tudent generated rubrics can reduce anxiety” (9).


  • To address different learning styles (Kolb), “[r]ubrics—with student input—are perfect for all four styles and can provide for a variety of criteria” (10).


  • For Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory, “[r]ubrics are supportive of student self-assessment in a variety of activities” (10).


  • For Right Brain/Left Brain learning theory (Sperry), “[r]ubrics are used to assess subjective, qualitative work” (10).


  • For the Communities of Practice theory (J Dewey), “[r]ubrics can be created for labs and other hands-on assignments, especially for cooperative group projects” (10-11).


  • For Glasser’s Control Theory,”’ [b]enchmarks’ of scoring rubrics provide the absolute standard” (11).


  • For Bandura’s Social Learning Theory, “[r]ubrics provide the model of excellence and provide assessment of creativity” (11).


I thought that this connection between learning theories and rubrics was useful. Quinlan gives specific ideas of how to use assessments and rubrics to match almost anyone’s ideas about learning and growth.

Intro to Rubrics, Chapter 7 and final summary

Introduction to Rubrics, Chapter Seven: Variations on a Theme and overall reflections of this book




In this chapter, the authors give examples and suggestions for using rubrics in specific disciplines and assignments such as in laboratory classes or for large research projects, book reviews, discussions, or portfolios. They give some excellent examples and suggestions on how and why to use rubrics for these purposes. The part I found most useful was the idea of using a staged rubric for research papers. The rubric includes the stages of the project as the dimensions (such as summaries, outline, draft, etc). Then the rubric can be used as the students progress through the different stages of the project, saving time for the instructor and also allowing the student to have all the feedback on the project in one place to review and build on. This staged rubric is something I may try in English 1109 where I have students work on an extensive project throughout the semester.


Overall reflections:


This book was extremely useful in helping me develop a rubric, especially in understanding how to tie the rubric to course and college outcomes or learning objectives.  I also liked the ideas of how and why to involve students in the process of rubric construction and plan to try that when I return to the classroom.  I would still like more information about the theories of assigning points in a rubric—this book didn’t discuss that controversy much. From what I can see, the authors of this book use rubrics as a grading tool as well as a way to save time and give useful and specific feedback in a variety of ways. I am thankful for their work and the examples and sample they have provided. I think many of my colleagues could benefit from this information as well.



Intro to Rubrics: Grading

Introduction to Rubrics, Chapter Six: Grading with Rubrics




In this chapter, the authors discuss several ways that rubrics improve and speed up grading, depending on the type of rubric used. This is the part of the process that I have struggled with and already I have some good ideas about how to improve the use of rubrics. I am interested in learning about how points and grades can and should best be attached to rubrics.


The first thing rubrics can do is make grading more consistent and fair. This book calls this establishing “performance anchors” (73). I laughed when the authors talked about the ways we, as graders, get through papers, by giving ourselves treats, by plowing through in marathon sessions without thinking, by counting and dividing classes into sections. I have done all of these things (I’ve even been known to clean the house—a chore I detest—to avoid grading a pile of papers) to make grading papers more manageable, but rubrics might make grading less of a chore if constructed and used well.


Probably the most useful aspect of rubrics is “providing detailed, formative feedback” (73). By using the three to five level rubric, instructors can avoid writing the same comments on student assignments over and over (nice introduction, thesis needs to be more specific, passive voice problems, need to tie ideas back to thesis, etc). These elements are already in the rubric, so the instructor can just check or circle them, giving students the same feedback but in a more consistent and organized manner. The authors do discuss two methods of using the three to five level rubric—with check boxes and just circling elements. Although creating the check boxes takes a little more time, it seems more useful and organized. For online grading, instructors could use highlighting instead of circling.


Scoring rubrics are also useful and time saving if the students are already pretty proficient in their work. By giving only the highest level of achievement and then room for comments, these scoring rubrics allow students to know the expectations of the assignment and give the instructor opportunity to add individual feedback. However, if the student does have trouble with the final assignment, the scoring rubric doesn’t save much time because the comments are numerous.


The last part of rubric use is, of course, grading. The authors discuss the benefits and pitfalls of assigning points to a rubric. They give a great example of a scoring rubric using points, which makes the grade quite clear to the student and makes grading a simple exercise for the instructor. However, they also talk about the problems with assigning points to rubrics –that students may nitpick over the points in a certain section or want to argue their grade more. They make a good point that before using rubrics, most instructors just gave comments and a grade—much less feedback and organization than a rubric. I think that involving students in weighing the dimensions of a rubric could help with this. If students are invested in the process of creating the rubric, they may not challenge it as much. I will have to try a couple of different ways and see what results in the most improvement. I have always been a pretty holistic grader, but sometimes I find it useful to break down the grade more clearly for me and my students. It can depend on the assignment. In my poem assignments in creative writing, I think assigning points will actually make the grading clearer and more fair—same with a major research paper. I’m not so sure about other assignments like composition I papers, especially the final exam. Even if points are not included in the rubric, students and instructors can usually tell the quality of the paper from the number of checks or circles in each level. For example, if the student has many more checks in the “excellent” category than any other, that is clearly an A paper. Same if the most checks are in the middle category, etc.


The last part of this chapter talks about a really interesting use of rubrics, one I had not considered: evaluating ourselves as instructors. Examples are given of ways to use a rubric to check how students did on assignments as a class, so instructors can track problems and provide ideas for how to improve performance next time. I’d like to try this—it could really improve how I present assignments in the future. The process involves a simple scoring rubric that checks off how students did in each dimension and element overall. This could be done while grading, and then the results will be done when the grading is done.  Nice idea! The authors also discuss using a “metarubric” (93) to evaluate the rubric itself. Interesting idea if the rubric doesn’t seem to be working, but time consuming otherwise.


Based on these ideas, I have revised my poem one rubric to include point values.



Poem One


TASK DESCRIPTION: Length:  At least 10 lines. 

Poem should be typed in word processing program and saved as an RTF (Rich Text Format) file. 

Document should be named: yourlastname_poem1  (for example: swing_poem1)  

Poem should have heading in upper left corner with your name, class, date and the assignment (poem one). Title of the poem should be left-justified before the first line of the poem.

Write a new poem, using at least four of the techniques described in Lesson Six. The poem does not have to rhyme, but it can. 

The poem should include at least four of the following elements:  an end-stopped line, a run-on line, an enjambed line, an original metaphor, an original simile.




DIMENSIONS Excellent Competent Developing Comments and points



Poetic Elements

12 points

□    Includes the required poetry elements of the assignment (four of the following elements:  an end-stopped line, a run-on line, an enjambed line, an original metaphor, an original simile.)

□    Ideas/themes in the poem are enhanced by the poetic techniques

□    Poem uses grammar and punctuation purposely (if rules of standard written English are not followed, there should be clear poetic reasons)


□    Includes three of the four required poetry elements of the assignment (four of the following elements:  an end-stopped line, a run-on line, an enjambed line, an original metaphor, an original simile.)

□    Ideas/themes in the poem are not clearly enhanced by the poetic techniques; the poetic elements seem used only because the assignment requires them

□    Poem uses grammar and punctuation purposely (if rules of standard written English are not followed, there should be clear poetic reasons) although there may be some small errors in English usage or confusion about the use of grammar, capitalization, or punctuation


□    Does not include all of the required poetry elements of the assignment (four of the following elements:  an end-stopped line, a run-on line, an enjambed line, an original metaphor, an original simile.)

□    Ideas/themes in the poem are not enhanced by the poetic techniques; they do not connect clearly

□    Poem does not use standard English usage at all and there is not clear reason for errors in grammar, spelling or punctuation use






6 points


□      Word choices in the poem are original, precise, and thoughtful,

□    Poem shows the author’s style and point of view clearly and in an original manner

□    Poem has a meaningful title


□      Word choices in the poem are clear, but may lack originality or precision

□    Poem has a style and point of view but it may be inconsistent or vague at times

□    Poem has a title, but it may be over general or not contribute to the theme or ideas in the poem clearly


□      Word choices in the poem are clichéd, vague, or seem forced and rushed

□    Poem does not have a clear original style or point of view

□    Poem has no title



4 points

□    Poem has a clear structure, possibly using stanzas or other means (like rhyme) to develop and connect ideas in an organized manner

□    Poem uses line lengths purposefully and consistently to enhance meaning in the poem

□    Poem uses rhythm purposefully and consistently in the poem

□    Poem has an attempt at structure, but it may be inconsistent to unorganized

□    Poem has clear lines but may have inconsistent line lengths for no clear poetic reasons or the lines may not connect clearly to the ideas in the poem

□    Poem has a rhythm but it is inconsistent and possibly awkward in places

□    Poem does not have a clear structure or organization

□    The poem’s lines are broken in unclear ways and may create confusion in ideas and theme

□    Poem has awkward and inconsistent rhythm (try reading the poem aloud to hear where the rhythm is awkward or changes unnecessarily )



3 points

□    Paper has correct heading and formatting,

□    Poem is submitted in the dropbox correctly (with correct file name and in RTF or Microsoft word formatting)

□    The poem was submitted on time


□    Paper has heading and formatting although there may be some errors

□    Poem is submitted in the dropbox but the file was labeled incorrectly or the file format was not RTF or Microsoft Word

□    The poem was submitted on time


□    Paper has no heading and/or errors in formatting

□    Poem is submitted in the dropbox incorrectly (without correct file name and/or in an unreadable word processing format)

□    The poem was submitted late


Total Points: 25       Grade:



Overall Comments: