Using Rubrics to Assess Student Learning

There are a number of different methods for assessing Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs); one of the most useful is rubrics. A rubric is a scoring tool designed to assess multifaceted observable performance by a student on a single assignment using a set of predetermined expectations. “Rubrics divide an assignment into its component parts and provide a detailed description of what constitutes acceptable or unacceptable levels of performance for each of those parts. Rubrics can be used for grading a large variety of assignments and tasks: research papers, book critiques, discussion participation, laboratory reports, portfolios, group work, oral presentations, and more.” (Introduction to Rubrics, page 1).

A great source for rubrics is the Association of American Colleges and Universities’(AAC&U) Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education(VALUE) project. “VALUE rubrics provide needed tools to assess students’ own authentic work, produced across students’ diverse learning pathways, fields of study and institutions, to determine whether and how well students are meeting graduation level achievement in learning outcomes that both employers and faculty consider essential. Teams of faculty and other educational professionals from institutions across the country… developed rubrics for sixteen Essential Learning Outcomes that all students need for success in work, citizenship, and life.” The VALUE rubrics help measure a number of potential SLOs such as Critical Thinking, Creative Thinking, Inquiry and Analysis, Written Communication, Oral Communication, Quantitative Literacy, Problem Solving, and Teamwork. The VALUE rubrics are free and can be downloaded from AAC&U’s website. Information on how to cite the rubrics is here. You may also email us at and request a copy of the VALUE rubrics.

Below are some additional examples of different types of rubrics created by other institutions to evaluate student performance on various assignments and disciplines. The rubrics may be used as is or adjusted to meet the needs of your course. Please include the citation for the rubric’s source (provided at the bottom of each table).

At the graduate level, rubrics can be used to measure student’s ability to prepare and defend original research. Many graduate programs choose a master’s thesis/doctoral dissertation to evaluate whether the students have developed important graduate-level competencies, such as ability to analyze and synthesize prior literature, to apply and interpret statistical tests, or to compose clear, well-constructed, error-free scientific writing. Using a rubric provides students, major professors and defense committees with a clear, shared understanding of what specific facets of a thesis/dissertation will be assessed and how. Simply using the overall thesis/dissertation ‘pass or fail’ assessment approach does not allow for an evaluation of different, specific knowledge sets, skills, and attitudes that the graduate should possess by the time they finish the program. Below are some examples of thesis/dissertation rubrics that can be used as is or adjusted to meet the needs of your program. Please include the citation for the rubric’s source (provided at the bottom of each table).

Please contact us at with any questions about creating or using rubrics for assessing SLOs. Below are some additional supporting resources and further readings about assessment rubrics.