What are the VALUE rubrics and how did they come about?

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So I have personally been a fan of the VALUE rubrics, the educational tools that bring us here today, since well before AAC&U paid my salary. When I was teaching and working in assessment and evaluation at Virginia Tech Research University here in the States, these tools became critical features of how I thought about organizing my classes, walking students through the outcomes that I was hoping they would develop in addition to the content areas that we were focusing on, as well as then having evidence of student learning to share with other audiences at the end.

I hope that this class will help just get you started, understand what the VALUE rubrics are, where they came from, and how to download them so that you, too, can jump into the deep end of using these phenomenal tools that educators across the world, 153 countries at over 2,800 institutions of higher learning, have used to further their own educational goals for their students.

In 2005, AAC&U launched the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative to promote the value of liberal education. The LEAP initiative identified 16 Essential Learning Outcomes that employers and educators agree are crucial for student success in work, citizenship, and life. It also revealed that, while many tests of student learning had been developed, the sector lacked reliable and consistent assessments of student learning against these essential learning outcomes, particularly via assessments embedded in courses as opposed to relying on standardized tests. As a result, in 2009, AAC&U released a new approach – Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE) – to develop a set of rubrics aligned with the essential learning outcomes and used to assess actual work students complete as part of their curriculum and co-curriculum.

Through the VALUE initiative, teams of faculty and academic and student affairs professionals from all sectors of higher education across the United States gathered, analysed, and synthesized institutional-level rubrics, existing research and reports, and individual professional experience for 16 learning outcomes. The draft rubrics were initially tested at approximately 150 institutions and iteratively revised and retested. In 2009, AAC&U released 15 VALUE rubrics, and in 2013, the Global Learning VALUE Rubric was added. Since then, the VALUE rubrics have been widely adopted by institutions, systems, accrediting bodies, and overseas partners.

Why are the VALUE rubrics important to educators?

The VALUE rubrics are analytical rubrics that synthesise the core elements of learning for 16 outcomes. They were written to be widely applicable within undergraduate education. In drafting the language, the rubric developers took care to avoid using discipline-specific terms such that the rubrics provide educators with a common frame of reference to make judgments about the quality of student work, and offer transparency with respect to shared expectations, definitions, and dimensions of learning, which is critical to the learning-teaching process. By following this method to evaluate student work, institutions can obtain a clearer and fuller picture of their students’ strengths across multiple learning outcomes.

The rubrics were developed with the notion that the work students complete as part of their curricula and/or co-curricula is their best and most motivated work. Moreover, this approach assumes that the expert judgment of faculty and other educators should be relied upon when evaluating student work. The VALUE rubrics also take an “asset-based” approach, in other words, they focus on what students can do, not what they can’t.

Participating campuses and educators consistently report that the VALUE rubrics provide a way of bringing together faculty and other educational professionals from multiple disciplines and divisions in a common conversation about student learning outcomes. In this way, the rubrics provide common ground for both improving student outcomes and more broadly demonstrating the value of liberal higher education.

What the VALUE rubrics are not

The VALUE rubrics are not inflexible—as open educational resources (OER), they are available to be used widely and even edited to suit the user’s individual needs. Indeed, they are meant to be adapted for the mission, programs, and student demographics of the institutions where they are used, which is why AAC&U offers each rubric as a no-cost download in both PDF and Word formats. On many campuses, revisions span anything from the performance descriptors to the number of dimensions included to the number and names of the performance levels. However, adapting the rubrics requires care because, as changes are made, we cannot assume the reported reliability and validity remain constant. See “Applying to Your Context” for more on this topic.

The VALUE rubrics were developed to assess the learning outcome of focus for each rubric, not necessarily course content nor learning overall. The rubrics were not designed as grading rubrics for specific assignments but can certainly be adapted for that purpose. Similarly, the performance levels are not intended to mimic years in school or assignment grades. For example, a level 4, Capstone, is not equivalent to senior-level work nor a grade of “A.”

American Association of Colleges and Universities. (2022). Essential learning outcomes.

American Association of Colleges and Universities. (2009). Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE).


Do you use rubrics in your teaching? Why or why not?

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