Direct evidence of student learning is most often obtained by examining student work, examinations, essays, artistic creations, performances, class presentations, or something else.  In order to consistently evaluate the learning demonstrated by students, scoring guides, called “rubrics,” are frequently employed. A rubric is simply a list or chart that outlines the criteria or standards to be used to evaluate student work. Rubrics vary from simple checklists and numerical rating scales to the so-called “full rubric” used to describe a student’s performance at each of several levels. Rubrics are useful for grading individual assignments, but, when charts for individual students are gathered and the information is collated, they can provide powerful evidence for student learning in a program.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities recently completed a major project as part of its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative. The Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) project brought together more than 100 faculty members, assessment specialists, and other academic professionals to develop consistent rubrics for evaluating the “essential learning outcomes” of undergraduate liberal education as defined in the LEAP initiative. These rubrics, which are easily adapted to suit the needs of particular programs or institutions, include critical thinking, creative thinking, written communication, oral communication, civic engagement, teamwork, and other topics. For more information and to view and download the rubrics, go to

Internet searches will yield a wide variety of rubrics on various topics to use as models. Some examples are posted here:

Carnegie Mellon University’s Philosophy Paper (PDF); Discussion (PDF)

University of Baltimore’s Team Member Effectiveness (PDF); Graduate Analytical & Problem-Solving (PDF)

University of Southern Illinois’ Written and Oral MA exam (PDF)

Washington State University’s Critical and Integrative Thinking (PDF)

Purdue University’s Dissertation Proposal (PDF)

The University of Connecticut Assessment Primer discusses in detail how to create rubrics.

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