Rubrics: A Clear Pathway to Success, Part 2

by Jessica Mansbach

In my recent blog post Rubrics: A Clear Pathway To Success, I discussed the purpose of a rubric and its value for students and instructors. In this post, I will discuss three key ingredients of rubrics, different types of rubrics, and  how to select a rubric. I will also explain how to create rubrics in Canvas.

Three Key Ingredients

Effective rubrics contain three essential features (Reddy & Andrade, 2010).

  1. Evaluation Criteria: Evaluation criteria are the set of indicators (e.g., knowledge and behaviors) that will be measured to gather evidence about students’ mastery of the task or assignment (Reddy & Andrade, 2010). This set of indicators must be explicitly stated so that students know how their performance will be evaluated (Bargainnier, 2003). For example, when measuring critical thinking we want students to show evidence that they can “accurately interpret evidence…identify the salient arguments…thoughtfully analyze…alternative points of view” (Holistic Scoring Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric, Temple University Teaching and Learning Center, n.d.).  
  2. Quality Definitions: Definitions of quality outline the features associated with different levels of performance (e.g., excellent, good, fair, poor) on the indicators. When students view the rubric, they should be able to discern the distinctions between each of the levels so that they can gauge what constitutes a high-quality performance (Bargainnier, 2003). When clear definitions of quality are presented, students have a road map to determine what must be done to achieve different levels of performance (Fullbright, 2016).
  3. Scoring Strategy: The scoring strategy shows students how they will be graded and ensures that instructors create a scoring strategy for each assignment. Each level of performance should be associated with a different score and students should easily be able to see how they did on each component of the assignment and on the assignment as a whole. Including a scoring strategy reduces confusion about grading decisions (Reddy & Andrade, 2010).

Holistic and Analytic Rubrics: What’s the Difference?

There are several different types of rubrics, each of which contain a different arrangement of these three key ingredients. Two common types of rubrics are holistic and analytic.

Holistic Rubrics

In Using Rubrics to Improve Online Teaching, Learning, and Retention, Rippe (2009) explains,“Holistic rubrics identify all factors for an assignment using a checklist or description” (para. 5). A holistic rubric uses a single scale to evaluate the whole the assignment. Below is an example of a holistic rubric used to score critical thinking.

4 Consistently does all or almost all of the following:

  • Accurately interprets evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc.
  • Identifies the salient arguments (reasons and claims) pro and con.
  • Thoughtfully analyzes and evaluates major alternative points of view.
  • Draws warranted, judicious, non-fallacious conclusions.
3 Does most or many of the following:

  • Accurately interprets evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc.
  • Identifies relevant arguments (reasons and claims) pro and con.
  • Offers analyses and evaluations of obvious alternative points of view.
  • Draws warranted, non-fallacious conclusions.
2 Does most or many of the following:

  • Misinterprets evidence, statements, graphics, questions, etc.
  • Fails to identify strong, relevant counter-arguments.
  • Ignores or superficially evaluates obvious alternative points of view.
  • Draws unwarranted or fallacious conclusions.
1 Consistently does all or almost all of the following:

  • Offers biased interpretations of evidence, statements, graphics, questions, information, or the points of view of others.
  • Fails to identify or hastily dismisses strong, relevant counter-arguments.
  • Ignores or superficially evaluates obvious alternative points of view.
  • Argues using fallacious or irrelevant reasons, and unwarranted claims.

Holistic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric, Adapted from Temple University’s Teaching and Learning Center.


From the rubric, you can see that the student’s finished assignment is given one score based on a scale.

    There are several advantages to using holistic rubrics. Because the instructor only has to use one scale to evaluate the assignment, grades can be assigned more efficiently. The student’s grade gives the instructor a snapshot of the student’s mastery of the assignment or task. However, because students only getting general feedback about their performance on the assignment, it is difficult for them to see how they can make improvements in the quality of their work  (Bargainnier, 2003).

Analytic Rubrics   

Analytic rubrics look like grids. The evaluation criteria are listed on the left side and the definitions of quality or ratings are listed on the right side. A score associated with each level of quality is included (Rippe, 2009). Below is an example of an analytic rubric used to score critical thinking.

Rating Criteria Rating Scale
Emerging Developing Mastering
Summarized problem, question, or issue Does not attempt to or fails to identify and summarize accurately. Summarizes issue, though some aspects are incorrect or confused. Nuances and key details are missing or glossed over. Clearly identifies the challenge and subsidiary, embedded, or implicit aspects of the issue. Identifies integral relationships essential to analyzing the issue.
1 2 3 4 5 6
Considers context and assumptions Approach to the issue is in egocentric and sociocentric terms. Does not relate to other contexts. Presents and explores relevant contexts and assumptions, although in a limited way. Analyzes the issue with a clear sense of scope and context, including an assessment of audience.
1 2 3 4 5 6
Communicates own perspective, hypothesis, or position. Position is clearly adopted with little consideration. Presents own position, which includes some original thinking, though inconsistently. Position demonstrates ownership. Appropriately identifies own position, drawing support from experience and information not from assigned sources.
1 2 3 4 5 6
Total Score:

Analytic Critical Thinking Scoring Rubric, adapted from Kansas State University Critical Thinking Project


Whereas holistic rubrics offer a snapshot of the students’ overall performance, analytic rubrics allow students to see how they performed on each individual component of the assignment.

There are several advantages to using analytic rubrics. Because students received detailed feedback, they are able to easily see how well they did and which areas need improvement. If each criteria in the rubric matches a requirement of the assignment, it is easy for instructors to determine how well students fulfilled that requirement. However, because analytic rubrics are so unique to each assignment, instructors may need to create a separate rubric for each assignment (Bargainnier, 2003).

How Do I Choose Which Rubric To Use?

    To determine what kind of rubric you want to use,  ask yourself what evidence you are looking for about students’ performance and what kind of feedback you want to give students. As you select a rubric, think about what set indicators you want to focus on when gathering evidence of students’ performance. If you want a “big picture” of students’ performance and you want to give students general feedback, then a holistic rubric is a useful tool. If you want a close-up of students’ performance and you want to give students specific feedback, then an analytic rubric is a useful tool (Allen & Tanner, 2006).

How Do I Use The Rubric Feature In Canvas?

    When you are building your course in Canvas, you can create separate rubrics for each assignment by selecting the Outcomes options from the left hand navigation bar inside your course. You can attach these rubrics to your assignments. Then, the grading process is speedy and seamless as you enter scores in the rubric and add additional comments to the assignment. For more information on how to use the rubrics feature, please talk with an Instructional Technologist or Learning Designer.  



Allen, D., & Tanner, K. (2006). Rubrics: tools for making learning goals and evaluation criteria explicit for both teachers and learners. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 5(3), 197-203.

Bargainnier, S. (2003). Fundamentals of rubrics. Pacific Crest, 1-4.

Fullbright, S. (2016). Using Rubrics As A Defense Against Grade Appeals. Retrieved from

Reddy, Y. M., & Andrade, H. (2010). A review of rubric use in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(4), 435-448.

Rippe, C. (2009). Using Rubrics To Improve Online Teaching, Learning, And Retention. Retrieved from

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