^ To Top
Teaching in Engineering Education

Rubrics for Engineering Education

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Rubrics for Engineering Education", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

Developing Rubrics for Engineering Education

The process of developing rubrics within engineering courses can be exhaustive. There are various steps involved in the developmental process of rubrics. The following section will explore the procedure in developing rubrics and will provide tips in developing rubrics.

Guidelines in developing rubrics

  1. Identify the purposes and aims of assessing the students: Determine if it is for feedback and/or for certification or others. See “Assessment in Higher Education” for more details.
  2. Identify what you want to assess: Align them with the students' learning outcomes and objectives and learning activities.
  3. Select the appropriate rubrics: Determine whether holistic rubrics or analytic rubrics are more appropriate. The selection depends on the type of assessment used and the specific results you want to provide for feedback in the outcome assessment process.
  4. Identify the performance criteria that your assessment will be graded against: For example for presentation rubrics, you may have introduction, knowledge understanding, presentation delivery, posture/eye-contact and time-management.
  5. Identify the type of scale to be used: Identifying an appropriate scale is essential both in terms of the number of levels and the type. For instance a scale of 1-0 will not be useful, and a scale of 10 levels will probably cause frustration for the evaluator and become too exhaustive. When adopting the use of "0" in the number scale, it is important to take precaution as a student who receives a "0" may have the tendency to feel that he or she receives a grade of "zero". It may be more useful to use scales with words such as "Excellent, Proficient, Average and Poor"
  6. Describe the level of mastery: Write descriptive statement(s) for each level of performance, the difference between each level should be as equal as possible. The best way to do that is to determine the worst and the best levels, and try to fill the levels in between. In addition, the description of the levels should be objective than subjective. For instance, a descriptive statement like "Student's mathematical calculations contain no errors" is better than a descriptive statement like "Student's mathematical calculations are good". The first statement is preferred over the latter statement because the phrase "no errors" is quantifiable, whereas "are good" requires the evaluator to make judgment.
  1. Test the rubrics: Conduct a test trial of the scale on several samples with several faculty members using the developed rubrics. In order to determine the inter-rater reliability of the rubrics, use formal statistical tests or at least draw up a rating matrix containing ratings of all raters and look for signs of reasonable consistency among all raters.
  1. Put the rubrics into application: After conducting the test trials, the rubrics can be used in the formal assessment process.
  1. Revise the rubrics from time to time: Discuss with fellow colleagues and students when revising the rubrics. Others opinion can offer you insights on how to improve your rubrics. Therefore it is wise to enlist the help of colleagues when developing rubrics for the assessment of a program. Rubrics function to promote shared expectations and grading practices, which can be beneficial to both faculty members and students in the programme.
  2. Options: It is sometimes useful to develop the rubrics with the students, as it helps the students to understand the usefulness of rubrics and allowing transparent assessment procedures.

Tips on developing rubrics

  1. Find and adapt existing rubrics: The chance of finding rubrics that matches exactly to your program or course is rare. However if you want to save time, you can choose to adapt existing rubrics where you make minor modifications to the rubrics to match your own assessment. If not, you can seek other fellow colleagues to see if they have developed a set of rubrics of their own to gain insights on developing your own set of rubrics.
  1. Evaluate the rubrics: In order to evaluate your rubrics critically, you can try answering the following questions during the process: (a) Do the rubrics target the outcome(s) being assessed? (If the rubrics do, then you have developed some successful rubrics); (b) Do the rubrics address anything extraneous? (If the rubrics do, then delete those extraneous areas) (c) Are the rubrics useful, feasible, manageable, and practical? (If the answer is yes, then you can find multiple ways to use the rubrics i.e. for grading assignment, peer review, and students' self assessment, etc.)
  1. Gather reference samples from student that exemplifies each point on the scale: Rubrics become meaningful to a student or colleague when the benchmarks, anchors, or exemplars are available.
  1. Be prepared for any necessary revision of the rubrics at all times: As the developer of the rubrics, you have to bear in mind to revise your rubrics on a timely basis.
  1. Share your rubrics, when you have developed good rubrics: Sharing your rubrics among your fellow colleagues can enhance interaction across academic faculty members and in return you might get beneficial constructive feedbacks from your colleagues on how to improve your rubrics.
  1. Grade Moderation: Share your rubrics with teachers from the same course conducting the same assessment to prevent grade inflation or deflation, and thus help achieve consistency in assessment.