27 Assessment Tools

Assessment tools are the evaluation forms (e.g., rubrics, checklists) used to collect data about student performance on an assessment. The best assessment tools are well aligned with the purpose and elements of the assessment, easy to use and interpret, and provide appropriate levels of actionable feedback. This page reviews three commonly used assessment tools: checklists, rating scales, and rubrics.

Checklists and rating scales

Checklists contain a list of required criteria and space for an assessor to indicate whether or not students met those criteria. Unlike rating scales or rubrics, checklists are generally binary: Either the criterion was met or not. As a result, they are not as effective for providing formative feedback to students as other forms of assessment.

Like checklists, rating scales list criteria but also offer the evaluator an opportunity to comment on the degree or frequency of the behavior. However, the descriptors of criteria are much more meaningful than the scale anchors. Likert or number (“On a scale from 1 to 10 …”) scales are common examples of rating scales.


A rubric is a scoring guide used to evaluate the quality of a performance or product across multiple characteristics or dimensions. Often used for assessing projects, papers, and presentations, rubrics contain the following three key components:

  • Criteria required to complete the assignment
  • Descriptive markers for quality across each criterion
  • Capacity for scoring

There are a few types of rubrics including: holistic, analytic, and single-point. Holistic rubrics provide a single score based on an overall perception. They facilitate quick grading but do not enable detailed feedback.

Analytic rubrics provide scores for multiple criteria and are then added together for a total score. Analytic rubrics take more time to use but provide more detailed feedback and facilitate higher inter-rater reliability in cases of multisource feedback.

Single-point rubrics provide perhaps the most amount of space for narrative feedback by including “only one level of performance, the proficient level” of each category to be measured (Fluckiger, 2010, p. 19). To either side of the stated criteria is a field in which the instructor, student, or peer can include comments directly address areas needing improvement, or areas of excellence.

Comparing assessment tools

Choosing the right assessment tool is an essential part of designing an assessment. While your learning architect or instructional designer will be able to assist you, the chart, below, outlines and compares the basic features of each tool.

Checklists Rating Scales Rubrics

Easy to construct and use

+ + +/-

Easy to align with performance and learning objectives

+ + +

Establish expectations for students before the assignment is completed

+/- +/- +

Provide clear and comprehensive feedback in a systematic fashion


Clearly communicate a student’s current status and what they need to do in order to improve

+/- +/- +

Identify areas for remediation and enrichment for student cohorts and individuals


Useful for sharing information with other stakeholders

+ + +

Useful in peer and self-assessment

+ + +

Practice examples and resources

Select the following links to access examples of assessment tool development guidelines and examples that have been created and published by educators and educational institutions:

Brandeis University: Sample holistic rubric. This rubric, available by Google Drive, outlines criteria for six levels of performance for an essay assignment for a first year English course.

Brown University: Grading rubrics: Sample scales.This resource provides some examples for rating scales to consider as you develop a grading rubric; from three levels (e.g. weak, satisfactory, strong) to six levels (e.g. Unacceptable, Emerging, Minimally Acceptable, Acceptable, Accomplished, Exemplary). Before proceeding, decide how many levels your rubric should have and consider the implications of that scale for both feedback, and grading.

Carnegie Mellon University: Creating and using rubrics. This resource describes the purpose and features of rubrics, and includes 11 examples of rubrics for different types of assignments such as: papers, projects, oral presentations, and class participation.

Edutopia: Tame the beast: Tips for designing and using rubrics. This brief article provides six tips for writing effective rubrics.

Edutopia: Five tips for a more meaningful rubric. This brief article includes five things instructors should keep in mind when creating quality rubrics.

Pennsylvania State University: Sample analytic rubric. This sample rubric is used to assess oral communication at three levels of achievement across six categories.

Professional Communications OER: Six-Word Story: Writing Clearly and Concisely; Using Visuals in a Document; Plain Language in Your Day-to-Day Life. These three activities include full activity descriptions, extension options, single-point rubrics, and instructions on how the rubrics could be used.

Vanderbilt University: Sample rubrics and spreadsheets. This resource includes three sample analytical rubrics: research paper, opinion paper, and critical thinking.

Yale University: Creating and using rubrics. This resource provides a more detailed breakdown of creating a new rubric.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

The iDea Book Copyright © by iDesign is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book