Why use rubrics for assessment?

These skills are found across sub-disciplines of science and across the undergraduate developmental level. There aren’t many tests or standards for measuring these skills, which suggest a need for standardization. Increased learning research tells us that rubrics enable undergraduate novices to integrate the language of their discipline. Rubrics make abstract skills more visible and teach students to self-monitor.


  • measure sub-skills
  • measure different levels of competency
  • can measure development of competency through time
  • provide quantitative data on student learning
  • allow for greater flexibility in assignments
  • get at deeper higher cognitive skills, not just content
  • and are general enough to be used across the different courses.

The rubric bank has been iteratively developed, aligned with project goals, and reliability examined.

We use it to assess HOCs, NOS, communication skills, and scientific content in the context of written scientific research papers, oral research presentations, and poster presentations. Most of the time, we use only a handful of items on any given assignment, allowing us to tailor the rubric to suit our needs.

Preliminary benefits of the rubrics include:

  • A chance to reflect on our teaching
  • Easier, faster, more consistent grading
  • Assessment FOR learning
  • Alignment of assessment with objectives
  • Program development and greater cohesion within our department and across our campus