Blog: Tips & Tricks

Using Rubrics for Grading and Assessment

Michelle Curtis August 27, 2015

In my previous blog post, Grading vs. Assessment and How it Relates to Rubrics, you learned how to differentiate between a score sheet (aka grading rubric) and an assessment rubric. However, the cliff-hanger hinted that although there are many instances where rubrics are either an assessment rubric or a score sheet, some rubrics may be a combination of both. You may be thinking to yourself, “but didn’t we just establish that rubrics are two separate entities: assessment rubrics and score sheets?” We did, but bear with us . . .

Suppose a faculty member has a rubric that they’d like to use to grade their students on an assignment. However, that assignment happens to be a key assignment that their chair wants them to score for assessment. What do faculty do with an assignment that serves two purposes: as a key assignment that measures a particular outcome, and also as an assignment that yields a grade for the class? Scoring the same assignment twice with two types of evaluations seems redundant and certainly doesn’t appeal to faculty (double work=unhappy faculty). Why should faculty have to score an assignment twice? The answer . . . they don’t necessarily have to.

Let’s say that a student has just submitted his or her essay on Romeo and Juliet for an assignment in his or her course. The faculty member wants to grade the paper using a score sheet, but also assess the student’s performance on a particular learning outcome. The score sheet (or grading rubric) used to evaluate this assignment looks like this:


With Taskstream, standards or learning outcomes can be easily aligned with each rubric criterion. Although this grading rubric shown above is measuring the specifics of the Romeo and Juliet assignment, it has also been aligned to a written communication skills learning outcome. This means that the faculty member can use the rubric to grade the students’ assignments and share formative feedback while also assessing their performance on a key learning outcome. Faculty members can then easily view their students’ performances on these outcomes with Taskstream’s faculty dashboards and reports. This data can be used to inform evidence of student learning not only at the course and program level, but at the institutional level as well.

When drafting grading rubrics that will also be used for assessment, it is important to make sure that your rubric’s performance levels are consistent. Having a balanced grading rubric will ultimately be more useful when conducting assessments. What does balanced mean? One way to have a balanced rubric is demonstrated in the grading rubric shown above. In this rubric, you’ll notice that each performance level has a numeric value set to it; 1, 2, 3 and 4. In addition to the numerical values, each criterion has the same points for scoring on performance levels. Students can receive either 13 points, 15 points, 17 points, or 20 points on each rubric row, with the maximum score totaling 100. Notice there is no variation; the point values remain the same in each descriptor for each rubric row. This will help ensure that your assessments will be as accurate as possible, while simultaneously being able to use the point system within the performance indicators for a numeric grade. The more variation you have, the further apart the grade might drift from the assessment. In other words, your assessment might demonstrate that the student did not show any evidence of learning, but the grade might be extremely high, reflecting that the student did show evidence of learning, and vice versa.

While assessment and grading are often separate activities with separate scoring methods, there are ways to combine these methods when needed without requiring faculty to duplicate their efforts. We don’t like doing double work either, so why should faculty?

Unsure of how to use our Rubric Wizard in Taskstream? Please reach out to our Mentoring Services team at if you have questions about building rubrics, uploading rubrics, or aligning learning outcomes or standards to rubrics.