Using Rubrics: Learning Through Assessment


Types of assessment: formative and summative; standardized, large-scale, alternative; discrete-point and holistic

Focus on formative assessment for learning

Key to assessment: Clear behavioral objectives, organized step-by-step to lead students to achieve course goals.


Alternative assessment: "Alternative Assessment is any type of assessment in which the student creates his or own answer to a question, perhaps in the form of an essay or drawing, as opposed to choosing from provided responses, as typically seen on multiple-choice tests. Most commonly, alternative assessments include short answer questions, essays, performance assessments, oral presentations, exhibitions, and portfolios." (

Criterion-referenced test: A test that is "designed to measure student performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria or learning standards—i.e., concise, written descriptions of what students are expected to know and be able to do at a specific stage of their education. In elementary and secondary education, criterion-referenced tests are used to evaluate whether students have learned a specific body of knowledge or acquired a specific skill set."  (Great Schools Partnership)

Discrete-point test: "Discrete point testing refers to the testing of one element at a time, item by item. This might, for example, take the form of a series of items, each testing a particular grammatical structure." (LanguageTestingUM)

Formative assessment: "Formative assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning. It does not contribute to the final mark given for the module; instead it contributes to learning through providing feedback. It should indicate what is good about a piece of work and why this is good; it should also indicate what is not so good and how the work could be improved. Effective formative feedback will affect what the student and the teacher does next." (Also called classroom assessment.) (University of Exeter)

Goals: "Goals are broad, general statements of what the program, course, or activity intends to accomplish.  Goals describe broad learning outcomes and concepts (what you want students to learn) expressed in general terms (e.g., clear communication, problem-solving skills, etc.)." (University of Connecticut

Holistic scoring: "Holistic scoring results in a more general description for categories, but includes the different elements of writing implicitly or explicitly. The result is usually a global grade, such as A, B, C, D, E." (Foreign Language Teaching Methods

Learning objectives: "Instructional Objectives describe in detail the behaviors that students will be able to perform at the conclusion of a unit of instruction such as a class, and the conditions and criteria which determine the acceptable level of performance." (University of Connecticut

Learning outcomes: "Learning Outcomes are statements that describe significant and essential learning that learners have achieved, and can reliably demonstrate at the end of a course or program. ... Objectives are intended results or consequences of instruction, curricula, programs, or activities. Outcomes are achieved results or consequences of what was learned; i.e., evidence that learning took place." (University of Connecticut) Note that the terms "goals," "objectives," and "outcomes" are not described consistently.  

Norm-referenced test: "Tests that are designed to compare and rank test takers in relation to one another. Norm-referenced tests report whether test takers performed better or worse than a hypothetical average student, which is determined by comparing scores against the performance results of a statistically selected group of test takers, typically of the same age or grade level, who have already taken the exam." (Great Schools Partnership)

Portfolio: "A student portfolio is a compilation of academic work and other forms of educational evidence assembled for the purpose of (1) evaluating coursework quality, learning progress, and academic achievement; (2) determining whether students have met learning standards or other academic requirements for courses, grade-level promotion, and graduation; (3) helping students reflect on their academic goals and progress as learners; and (4) creating a lasting archive of academic work products, accomplishments, and other documentation." (Great Schools Partnership)  

Rubric: "A rubric is typically an evaluation tool or set of guidelines used to promote the consistent application of learning expectations, learning objectives, or learning standards in the classroom, or to measure their attainment against a consistent set of criteria." (Great Schools Partnership)

Standardized test: "A standardized test is any form of test that (1) requires all test takers to answer the same questions, or a selection of questions from common bank of questions, in the same way, and that (2) is scored in a “standard” or consistent manner, which makes it possible to compare the relative performance of individual students or groups of students." (Great Schools Partnership)

Summative assessment: "Summative assessment demonstrates the extent of a learner's success in meeting the assessment criteria used to gauge the intended learning outcomes of a module or programme, and which contributes to the final mark given for the module. It is normally, though not always, used at the end of a unit of teaching. Summative assessment is used to quantify achievement, to reward achievement, to provide data for selection (to the next stage in education or to employment). For all these reasons the validity and reliability of summative assessment are of the greatest importance. Summative assessment can provide information that has formative/diagnostic value." (University of Exeter)


  • Handout for 2018 Rubrics presentation (PDF)
  • Handout for Learning through Assessment presentation (PDF)

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Last updated 23 April 2018 by D. Healey

Deborah Healey,
Apr 23, 2018, 9:58 PM
Deborah Healey,
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Deborah Healey,
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Deborah Healey,
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