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Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Feedback & Grading > Rubrics > Assessing Reflection

Assessing reflection or reflective processes can be particularly challenging. A few examples of this challenge are:

  • If reflection is meant to be a intimately personal experience, do we alter it simply by defining standards for assessment, making it a less personal and externally imposed process?
  • Assessment of reflection depends on written or spoken language. How might this handicap students who are less familiar with conventional and discipline or context-specific linguistic expectations in a manner that has nothing to do with those students’ abilities to engage in refection?
  • For example, will your students who are non-native speakers, or come from backgrounds with less exposure to common academic linguistic forms have a more difficult time demonstrating their ability to reflect well?

Writing with a pen

As there is not just one type of student in your classes/programs, there is not one answer to designing high quality assessment techniques for assessing reflection. You must design your reflection assignments as well as your assessments carefully considering your own context.

A few things to consider when you are designing your assessment strategies are:

  • What is the purpose of the reflection?
  • Are you interested in the process of reflection, the products of reflection or both?
  • How will the assessment task itself promote reflection or reflective practices?
  • How will you make judgements about reflection?
  • How will you make it clear to students what you expect of them in terms of their reflection?

Examples of Models for Assessing Reflection

Hatton and smith (1995).

Hatton and Smith described four progressive levels of reflection, with each increased level indicating more/better reflective processes.

  • Descriptive – this is not reflection, but simply describes events that occurred with no attempt to describe ‘why.’
  • Descriptive Reflection – description includes reasons, but simply reports reasons.
  • Dialogic Reflection – reflection as a personal dialogue (questioning, considering alternatives).
  • wonder, what if, perhaps….
  • Critical Reflection – takes into account context in which events occur, questions assumptions, considers alternatives, thinks about consequences of decisions/actions on others, and engages in reflective skepticism.

Ash and Clayton (2004)

Ash and Clayton describe a guided process for facilitating and assessing reflection. These researchers focus specifically on service learning, but their model could be applied to other types of learning experiences.

  • Students describe the experience.
  • Analyze the experience(s) from different categories of  perspectives based on the learning objective:
  • Identify learning in each category
  • Artic ulate learning by developing a well-developed statement of learning (articulated learni ng), using the four guiding questions that structure articulated learning as a guide:
  • What did I learn?
  • How, specifically, did I learn it?
  • Why does this learning matter, or why is it significant?
  • In what ways will I use this learning?
  • Analyze/revise articulated le arning statements by applying standards of critical thinking through: 
  • Student self-assessment
  • Instructor feedback
  • Finalize the articulated learning statements, aiming to fulfill all learning objectives in each categories and meet standards of critical thinking.
  • Undertake new learning experiences, including when feasible, taking action on articulated learning statements to test the initial conclusions reached.
  • Continue the reflection process, articulating additional complexity of the learning in articulated learning statements when possible.

A rubric is a learning and assessment tool that articulates the expectations for assignments and performance tasks by listing criteria, and for each criteria, describing levels of quality (Andrade, 2000; Arter & Chappuis, 2007; Stiggins, 2001). Rubrics contain four essential features (Stevens & Levi, 2013):

reflective essay rubric

A description of performance quality give students a clear idea about what must be done to demonstrate a certain level of mastery, understanding, or proficiency (i.e., "excellent" does xyz, "fair" does only xy or yz, "poor" does only x or y or z). Rubrics can be used for any assignment in a course, or for any way in which you ask students to demonstrate what they've learned. They can also be used to facilitate self and peer-reviews of student work.

A rubric can be analytic or holistic. An  analytic rubric  articulates different dimensions of performance and provides ratings for each dimension. A  holistic rubric  describes the overall characteristics of a performnace and provides a single score. Here are some pros and cons: 

reflective essay rubric

2. Why You Should Consider Rubrics

Rubrics help instructors :

  • Provide students with feedback that is clear, directed and focused on ways to improve learning.
  • Demystify assignment expectations so students can focus on the work instead of guessing "what the teacher wants."
  • Adapt your approach to teaching aspects of a course based on thematic gaps in student learning that are easily identified by reviewing rubrics across a class.
  • Develop consistency in how you evaluate student learning across students and throughout a class.
  • Reduce time spent on grading; Increase time spent on teaching.

Rubrics help students :

  • Focus their efforts on completing assignments in line with clearly set expectations.
  • Self and Peer-reflect on their learning, making informed changes to achieve the desired learning level.

3. Getting Started with Rubrics

STEP 1:  Clarify task/performance expectations. 

STEP 2:  Identify the characteristics of student performances. What is it that students are supposed to demonstrate (skills, knowledge, behaviors, etc.)? [components/dimensions]

STEP 3:  Identify how many mastery levels are needed for each performance component/dimension. Decide what score should be allocated for each level. [scale]

STEP 4:  Describe performance characteristics of each component/dimension for each mastery level. [performance descriptor]

STEP 5:  Pilot-test the rubric with a few sample papers and/or get feedback from your colleagues (and students) on the rubric. Revise the rubric. 

4. Rater Training and Calibrartion

In order to provide consistent and reliable rating, those who will be rating student work or performance need to be familiar with the rubric and need to interpret and apply the rubric in the same way. To calibrate ratings among raters, a rating orientation can be useful. 

Steps involved in rater training and calibration:

Step 1:  Explain how to use the rubric. Familiarize faculty with the categories and levels. For each mastery level, provide one sample with annotations of the features found in student work that capture the rating criteria. 

Step 2:  Provide two samples of student performance/work that represents different levels of mastery (mask the ratings). Have faculty rate them independently applying the rubric.

Step 3:  Gather faculty’s ratings to show the agreement on the rating.

Step 4:  Discuss scoring inconsistencies and reasons behind different ratings. Revise/clarify the rubric, if necessary.

Step 5:  Once consensus is made on the ratings and when faculty feel comfortable with using the rubric, proceed with individual ratings of student work/performance. Provide faculty with rating sheet and explain the procedure (e.g., two raters for one sample).  

5. Rubric Examples 

Sample rubrics from berkeley faculty: .

  • Sociology Department:  Writing assessment rubric
  • Sociology Department:  Rubric for Grading an  Analytical Essay , from Sociology Department
  • Rubric for Evaluating Written Assignments (pdf)
  • International and Area Studies:  Honors Thesis Rubric
  • International and Area Studies:  Honors Thesis Evaluation Form
  • Sample Research Paper, Annotated Bibliography, and Reflection

Other rubric samples: 

  • Group presentation rubric (UC Davis): http://dhc.ucdavis.edu/includes/pdf/Group_Research_Presentations_Rubric.pdf (link is external)  
  • Research paper rubric (George Mason University):  http://ctfe.gmu.edu/teaching/grading/sample-rubric-for-grading-a-research-paper/ (link is external)
  • Lab report rubric (University of Michigan):  http://www.crlt.umich.edu/gsis/p7_11 (link is external)
  • Dissertation proposal rubric (Purdue University):  http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ira/assess/pdf/Purdue_PhD_DissertationRubric.pdf (link is external)
  • AAC&U VALUE rubrics (Rubrics on: Civic Engagement, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Ethical Reasoning, Information Literacy, Inquiry Analysis, Integrative Learning, Intercultural Competence, Lifelong Learning, Oral Communication, Problem Solving, Quantitative Literacy, Global Learning, Reading, Teamwork, Written Communication):  http://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/pdf/All_Rubrics.pdf (link is external)
  • University of Maryland: http://openedpractices.org/files/CT%20and%20research%20Univ.%20of%20MD%20CTE.pdf (link is external)
  • Rubric for Integration of Student Learning Assessment into Program Reviews
  • Rubric for Assessing the Quality of Academic Program Learning Outcomes
  • Rubric for Assessing the Use of Portfolios for Assessing Program Learning Outcomes
  • Rubric for Evalutating General Education Assessment Process
  • The Educational Effectiveness Framework: Capacity & Effectiveness as They Relate to Student and Institutional Learning
  • Rubric for Assessing the use of Capstone Experiences for Assessing Program Learning Outcomes

Reflective Essay Rubric

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iRubric: Reflective Essay Rubric

reflective essay rubric

Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates

Instructors have many tasks to perform during the semester, including grading assignments and assessments. Feedback on performance is a critical factor in helping students improve and succeed. Grading rubrics can provide more consistent feedback for students and create efficiency for the instructor/grader.

A rubric is a scoring tool that identifies the different criteria relevant to an assignment, assessment, or learning outcome and states the possible levels of achievement in a specific, clear, and objective way. Use rubrics to assess project-based student work, including essays, group projects, creative endeavors, and oral presentations. Rubrics are helpful for instructors because they can help them communicate expectations to students and assess student work fairly and efficiently. Finally, rubrics can provide students with informative feedback on their strengths and weaknesses so that they can reflect on their performance and work on areas that need improvement.

How to Get Started

Best practices, moodle how-to guides.

  • Workshop Recording (Fall 2022)
  • Workshop Registration

Step 1: Define the Purpose

The first step in the rubric-creation process is to define the purpose of the assignment or assessment for which you are creating a rubric. To do this, consider the following questions:

  • What is the assignment?
  • Does the assignment break down into different or smaller tasks?  
  • Are these tasks equally important as the main assignment?  
  • What are the learning objectives for the assignment?  
  • What do you want students to demonstrate through the completion of this assignment?
  • What would an excellent assignment look like?
  • How would you describe an acceptable assignment?  
  • How would you describe an assignment that falls below expectations?
  • What kind of feedback do you want to give students for their work?
  • Do you want/need to give them a grade? If so, do you want to give them a single overall grade or detailed feedback based on a variety of criteria?
  • Do you want to give students specific feedback that will help them improve their future work?

Step 2: Decide What Kind of Rubric You Will Use

Types of rubrics: holistic, analytic/descriptive, single-point

Holistic Rubric. A holistic rubric consists of a single scale with all the criteria to be included in the evaluation (such as clarity, organization, mechanics, etc.) being considered together. With a holistic rubric, the rater or grader assigns a single score (usually on a 1-4 or 1-6 point scale) based on an overall judgment of the student’s work. The rater matches an entire piece of student work to a single description on the scale.

Advantages of holistic rubrics:

  • Place an emphasis on what learners can demonstrate rather than what they cannot
  • Save time by minimizing the number of decisions to be made
  • Can be used consistently across raters, provided they have all been trained

Disadvantages of holistic rubrics:

  • Do not provide specific feedback for improvement
  • Can be difficult to choose a score when a student’s work is at varying levels across the criteria
  • Criteria cannot be weighted

Analytic/Descriptive Rubric . An analytic rubric resembles a grid with the criteria for an assignment listed in the left column and with levels of performance listed across the top row, often using numbers and/or descriptive tags. The cells within the center of the rubric may be left blank or may contain descriptions of what the specified criteria look like for each level of performance. When scoring with an analytic rubric, each of the criteria is scored individually.

Advantages of analytic rubrics:

  • Provide feedback on areas of strength or weakness
  • Each criterion can be weighted to reflect its relative importance

Disadvantages of analytic rubrics:

  • More time-consuming to create and use than a holistic rubric
  • May not be used consistently across raters unless the rubrics are well defined
  • May limit personalized feedback to help students improve

Single-Point Rubric . Similar to an analytic/descriptive rubric in that it breaks down the components of an assignment into different criteria. The detailed performance descriptors are only for the level of proficiency. Feedback space is provided for instructors to give individualized comments to help students improve and/or show where they excelled beyond the proficiency descriptors.

Advantages of single-point rubrics:

  • Easier to create than an analytic/descriptive rubric
  • More likely that students will read the descriptors
  • Areas of concern and excellence are open-ended removes a focus on the grade/points
  • May increase student creativity in project-based assignments
  • Requires more work for instructors writing feedback

Step 3: Define the Criteria

Ask yourself: What knowledge and skills are required for the assignment/assessment? Make a list of these, group and label them, and eliminate any that are not critical.

  Helpful strategies for defining grading criteria:

  • Review the learning objectives for the course; use the assignment prompt, existing grading checklists, peer response sheets, comments on previous work, past examples of student work, etc.
  • Try describing A/B/C work.
  • Consider “sentence starters” with verbs describing student performance from Bloom’s Taxonomy  or other terms to indicate various levels of performance, i.e., presence to absence, complete to incomplete, many to some to none, major to minor, consistent to inconsistent, always to usually to sometimes to rarely
  • Collaborate with co-instructors, teaching assistants, and other colleagues
  • Brainstorm and discuss with students
  • Can they be observed and measured?
  • Are they important and essential?
  • Are they distinct from other criteria?
  • Are they phrased in precise, unambiguous language?
  • Revise the criteria as needed
  • Consider how you will weigh them in relation to each other

Step 4: Design the Rating Scale

Most ratings scales include between 3 and 5 levels. Consider the following questions:

  • Given what students are able to demonstrate in this assignment/assessment, what are the possible levels of achievement?
  • Will you use numbers or descriptive labels for these levels?
  • If you choose descriptive labels, what labels are most appropriate? Will you assign a number to those labels?
  • In what order will you list these levels — from lowest to highest or vice versa?

Step 5: Write Descriptions for Each Level of the Rating Scale

Create statements of expected performance at each level of the rubric. For an analytic rubric, do this for each particular criterion of the rubric. These descriptions help students understand your expectations and their performance in regard to those expectations.

Start with the top/exemplary work category –what does it look like when a student has achieved excellence in each category? Then look at the “bottom” category –what does it look like when students have not achieved the learning goals in any way? Then add the categories in between.

Also, take into consideration that well-written descriptions:

  • Describe observable and measurable behavior
  • Use parallel language across the scale
  • Indicate the degree to which the standards are met

Step 6: Create your Rubric

  • Develop the criteria, rating scale, and descriptions for each level of the rating scale into a rubric
  • Include the assignment at the top of the rubric, space permitting  
  • For reading and grading ease, limit the rubric to a single page, if possible
  • Consider the effectiveness of your rubric and revise accordingly
  • Create your rubric in a table or spreadsheet in Word, Google Docs, Sheets, etc., and then transfer it by typing it into Moodle. You can also use online tools to create the rubric, but you will still have to type the criteria, indicators, levels, etc., into Moodle. Rubric creators: Rubistar , iRubric

Step 7: Pilot-test your Rubric

Prior to implementing your rubric on a live course, obtain feedback from:

  • Teacher Assistants

Also, try out your new rubric on a sample of student work. After you pilot-test your rubric, analyze the results to consider its effectiveness and revise accordingly.

  • Use Parallel Language . Make sure that the language from column to column is similar and that syntax and wording correspond. Of course, the words will change for each section or assignment, as will the expectations, but in terms of readability, make sure that the rubric can be easily read from left to right or vice versa. In addition, if you have an indicator described in one category, it will need to be described in the next category, whether it is about “having included” or “not having included” something. This is all about clarity and transparency to students.
  • Use Student-Friendly Language . If students can’t understand the rubric, it will not be useful for guiding instruction, reflection, and assessment. If you want students to engage in using the rubric, they have to understand it. Make sure the language is learning-level appropriate. If you use academic language or concepts, you will need to teach those concepts.
  • Use the Rubric with Your Students . You have to use the rubric with the students. It means nothing to them if you don’t. For students to find the rubric useful in terms of their learning, they must see a reason for using it. Students should understand that the rubric is there to help them learn, reflect, and self-assess. If students use a rubric, they will understand the expectations and their relevance to learning.
  • Don’t Use Too Many Columns . The rubric needs to be comprehensible and organized. Pick the right amount of columns so that the criteria flow logically and naturally across levels.
  • Common Rubrics and Templates are Awesome . Avoid rubric fatigue, as in creating rubrics to the point where you just can’t do it anymore. This can be done with common rubrics that students see across multiple classroom activities and through creating templates that you can alter slightly as needed. Design those templates for learning targets or similar performance tasks in your classroom. It’s easy to change these types of rubrics later. Figure out your common practices and create a single rubric your team can use.
  • Rely on Descriptive Language. The most effective descriptions are those that use specific descriptions. This means avoiding words like “good” and “excellent.” At the same time, don’t rely on numbers, such as a number of resources, as your crutch. Instead of saying, “find excellent sources” or “use three sources,” focus your rubric language on the quality use of whatever sources students find and on the best possible way of aligning that data to the work. It isn’t about the number of sources, and “excellent” is too vague for students. Be specific and descriptive.

Example of an analytic rubric for a final paper

Example of a holistic rubric for a final paper, single-point rubric.

reflective essay rubric

  • Single Point Rubric Template ( variation )
  • Analytic Rubric Template make a copy to edit
  • A Rubric for Rubrics
  • Single Point Discussion Rubric
  • Mathematical Presentations Descriptive Rubric
  • Math Proof Assessment Rubric
  • Kansas State Sample Rubrics
  • Design Single Point Rubric

Technology Tools: Rubrics in Moodle

  • Moodle Docs: Rubrics
  • Moodle Docs: Grading Guide (use for single-point rubrics)

Supplemental Tools with Rubrics in Moodle

  • Google Assignments
  • Turnitin Assignments: Rubric or Grading Form
  • DELTA – Rubrics: Making Assignments Easier for You and Your Students (2/1/2022)
  • DePaul University (n.d.). Rubrics. Retrieved from http://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/feedback-grading/rubrics/Pages/default.aspx
  • Gonzalez, J. (2014). Know your terms: Holistic, Analytic, and Single-Point Rubrics. Cult of Pedagogy. Retrieved from https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/holistic-analytic-single-point-rubrics/
  • Goodrich, H. (1996). Understanding rubrics. Teaching for Authentic Student Performance, 54 (4), 14-17. Retrieved from    http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec96/vol54/num04/Understanding-Rubrics.aspx
  • Miller, A. (2012). Tame the beast: tips for designing and using rubrics. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/designing-using-rubrics-andrew-miller
  • Ragupathi, K., Lee, A. (2020). Beyond Fairness and Consistency in Grading: The Role of Rubrics in Higher Education. In: Sanger, C., Gleason, N. (eds) Diversity and Inclusion in Global Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-1628-3_3
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    Writing Rubric: Reflective Essay BLM 5 (1.A.1-1.A.8) Below Basic 1 Responses show that the writer

  18. Rubric Best Practices, Examples, and Templates

    Step 1: Define the Purpose The first step in the rubric-creation process is to define the purpose of the assignment or assessment for which you are creating a rubric. To do this, consider the following questions: What is the assignment? Does the assignment break down into different or smaller tasks?


    WRITING RUBRIC: REFLECTIVE ESSAY A reflective essay is a form of writing that examines and observes the progress of the writer's individual experience. While a reflective essay explains and analyzes the development of the writer, it should also discuss future goals.

  20. Results for reflective essay rubric

    Reflective thinking is a critical, but often over-looked skill. This simple one page document provides students a clear guide to becoming a more reflective lifelong learner. The document includes details for writing a basic five paragraph essay and a rubric for self, peer, and teacher assessment. It is generic and intended to be used over and over again throughout the school year(s) for ...

  21. DOC Reflection Paper Grading Rubric

    14 - lacks focus, demonstrates confused or simplistic thinking, or fails to communicate ideas. 12 - is unfocused, illogical, incoherent or disorganized. Score / 20 20 - is coherently organized (i.e. stays on target with the topic), with ideas supported by apt reasons. 18 - is well organized and developed with appropriate reasons and ...

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    Using the IB Rubrics to lead student reflection and growth Aims and goals for today's session: 1. Higher level of comfort with IB Objective Rubrics; 2. Materials to track student progress in your classroom; 3. Understanding of how to lead students in finding their pattern of performance; 4. Tools for students to reflect and to discuss their ...

  23. What is a Reflective Essay?

    A reflective essay is an essay in which the writer examines his or her experiences in life. The writer then writes about those experiences, exploring how he or she has changed, developed or grown ...