Rubrics and Direct Measures

Direct measures of assessment require students to represent, produce or demonstrate their learning. Direct measures evaluate examples of student work and provide direct evidence of student learning. Direct evidence of student learning is tangible, visible and measurable, and tends to be more compelling evidence of what students have and have not learned. A scoring rubric is often designed and used to systematically collect direct measures of learning. Examples include:

  • Observations of student behavior, conducted through a systematic process
  • Score and pass rates on tests and appropriate licensure exams
  • Performance evaluations
  • Score gains on pre-test and post measures
  • Capstone evaluations
  • Summaries and assessments of online class discussion threads

Many faculty and instructors already evaluate students’ learning using direct measures (scores, ratings, grades, etc.). This helps faculty and instructors answer some of the most common – and critical – questions about their students’ learning:

  • Are my students learning what I expect?
  • What concepts need further explanation or delineation?
  • Are the course activities aligned with the learning outcomes?
  • Overall, how will I know that learning has taken place?


Rubrics are often used when assessing direct measures of student learning. A rubric is a scoring tool that expresses criteria and standards relevant to an assignment or learning outcome.  Rubrics are an effective way to evaluate many types of student work, including essays, final projects, oral presentations, theatrical performances, etc.  They can be used at the time an assignment is given to communicate expectations to students, to assess students performance relative to course learning outcomes, and to assess an academic program by determining the extent to which students are achieving program outcomes.

Rubric Samples

Cleary Rubrics

  • Self-authorship Rubric Epistemological, Intrapersonal, and Interpersonal
  • Embedded Rubric
  • Signature Assignments

AAC&U Value Rubrics

Through its ground-breaking national initiative, VALUE (Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education), the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) has worked with faculty and assessment expert teams across the country to develop a set of 16 rubrics through which institutions can evaluate cross-cutting capacities that students develop across courses and programs. More than 2000 institutions are currently using VALUE rubrics as part of their assessment plans. See below for the rubrics.

Intellectual and Practical Skills

Personal and Social Responsibility

Integrative and Applied Learning