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What Rubrics Are, When to Use Them

A rubric is a matrix that defines what students need to do to fulfill different levels of achievement for an activity. Rubrics make your expectations clear and help you grade more quickly. Also, students learn from rubrics and use them for peer reviews.

Rubrics become most useful when you attach them to activities, such as Grade items, Dropbox folders, and Discussion topics.

This page gives an overview of Pilot’s Rubrics tool and explains the differences between holistic and analytic rubrics.

Videos: Rubrics Playlist

List of Videos in Playlist

To see individual videos in this playlist,

When to Use Rubrics

In addition to showing students the criteria you use to assess assignments, Rubrics can guide student peer reviews. Here are a couple examples:

Two Types of Rubrics

When you create a rubric in Pilot, you must choose which type you want. You won’t be able to change its type later. So you’ll want to understand the difference between these two types before you begin.

There are also some differences in how levels are scored. Faculty most often choose analytic rubrics because they offer more detailed assessments.

Holistic Rubric

Holistic rubrics assess a student’s overall achievement on an activity, based on predefined achievement levels. They do not break the scoring down into multiple criteria. Holistic rubrics may use percentages or text-only scoring.

Example Holistic Rubric, 4 Levels
Level Description
Level 4
85% or more
The photographer has submitted three sharp, well-composed, high quality photographs that capture the character of the event and place exceptionally well. The photos get in close, show faces and catch honest emotions.
Level 3
75% or more
The photographer adequately met requirements specific to this assignment.
Level 2
65% or more
The requirements were partly met. But the photographer missed some major part of what the assignment is about.
Level 1
0% or more
The photographer has some photos. But they significantly fail to meet the full assignment. The photos may be unrelated to the current assignment or of very poor quality.

See Create and Grade a Holistic Rubric

Analytic Rubric

Analytic rubrics have multiple criteria. You assess the level of achievement for each. You may give different weight to each criterion by assigning different values.

Analytic rubrics may use points, custom points, or text-only scoring. Rubrics that use points or custom points may use both text and points to assess performance. With custom points, each criterion may be worth a different number of points. For both points and custom points, Pilot will provide an overall score based on the total number of points achieved.

Example Analytic Rubric with 3 Criteria, 4 Levels, Custom Points
Criteria Well Done Sufficient Needs Improvement Low/No Evidence
Coverage, Visual Variety 20 points

The photographer did an exceptional job, trying several solutions to the assignment, exploring each solution in-depth with different angles, distances, composition, etc. When appropriate, photos include overall, medium, and close-up shots.

17 points

The photographer made an adequate effort to get the required number of photographs and try some variations on each idea.

14 points

The photographer made a minimal effort to get visual variety. A few examples follow: The photographer got fewer than the required number of photos. Some photos are not on topic. Photos seem to have been taken just to pad the count. It’s unclear what the photographer was trying to capture.

10 points

Examples: The photographer got far fewer photos than required. Each photo is a completely different subject. There is little or no evidence of having worked an idea.

Composition: Simplified, Organized, Emphasized, Balanced and Well Lighted 15 points

The photographer did an exceptional job of visually tying together all the elements in the picture to support and empasize the subject. Extraneous details are eliminated and the picture feels appropriately balanced.

12 points

The photographer did an adequate job of visually tying together all the elements in the picture to support and empasize the subject. Extraneous details are mostly eliminated and the picture feels appropriately balanced.

11 points

The photographer needed to find a different angle, distance or technique to eliminate extraneous details, organize the elements, emphasize the subject or get good lighting. Perhaps one must guess at what the photographer intended.

9 points

The photo is unorganized and cluttered with extraneous details. The subject gets lost. The lighting obscures and detracts from the subject.

Post Processing, Image Quality 10 points

Post processing is exceptionally well handled in Photoshop. It is artfully cropped. Color balance, exposure and contrast bring out the best in the picture. Distracting areas have been tastefully darkened or lightened to enhance the subject.

8.5 points

Post processing has been moderately well handled. Minor adjustments would make a significance difference in the image quality.

7.5 points

Cropping, and other adjustments still need some major work.

6.5 points

Post processing was clearly needed but neglected.

Overall Score  Level 4
38 or more
 Level 3
33 or more
Level 2
26 or more
 Level 1
0 or more

See Create and Grade an Analytic Rubric

Where to Use Rubrics

Once you have created a rubric, you will need to attach it to an activity in Pilot so students will see it and you can use it to assess assignments.

When you assess an activity with a rubric attached to a grade item, the rubric will pass each student’s score directly to that grade item. Unfortunately, rubrics don’t connect directly to Grades when they are attached to other tools. Even so a rubric may be easiest to use when you place it within the tool where your assignment takes place.

See Attach Rubrics to Grades and Activities