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Critical Thinking/Problem Solving (SCALE)

Created by Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, & Equity (SCALE) ©2012

Scoring DomainEmergingDevelopingProficientAdvanced
Formulating Problems


What is the evidence that the student can identify a clear and specific problem, challenge or question to investigate?





  • Identifies an unclear problem, challenge, or question to investigate
  • Problem, challenge, or question identified is based on incomplete or irrelevant information gathered from the context
  • Asks questions about the problem that is off track.
  • Asks questions about the explanation that is off track.
  • Asks questions about the inquiry that are off track.
  • Identifies a broad or general problem, challenge, or question to investigate
  • Problem, challenge, or question identified is based on incomplete but relevant information gathered from an authentic, real world context
  • Asks questions to break down the problem that are generally reasonable but not supported by a knowledge base
  • Asks questions to propose explanations that are generally reasonable but not supported by a knowledge base
  • Asks questions to guide the inquiry that are generally reasonable but not supported by a knowledge base
  • Identifies a clear and specific problem, challenge, or question to investigate
  • Problem, challenge, or question identified is based on relevant information gathered from an authentic, real world context
  • Asks focused questions to break down the problem
  • Asks focused questions to propose reasonable, knowledge-based explanations
  • Asks focused questions to guide the inquiry
  • Identifies with precision a clear and specific problem, challenge, or question to investigate
  • Problem, challenge, or question identified is based on relevant information gathered from an authentic, real world context
  • Asks questions to break down the problem that are focused, precise, and well grounded in a knowledge base
  • Asks questions to propose explanations that are focused, precise, and well grounded in a knowledge base
  • Asks questions to guide the inquiry that are focused, precise, and well grounded in a knowledge base
Analyze Evidence


What is the evidence that the student can analyze and evaluate the credibility of sources?
  • Summarizes information and arguments from sources taking into account author point of view though one source dominates
  • Summarizes information and arguments from sources taking into account purpose though one source dominates
  • Summarizes information and arguments from sources taking into account relevant context information though one source dominates
  • Treats all evidence as equally credible
  • Summarizes information and arguments from sources taking into account author point of view
  • Summarizes information and arguments from sources taking into account purpose
  • Summarizes information and arguments from sources taking into account relevant context information
  • Begins to question the credibility of some of the evidence
  • Analyzes information or arguments from sources taking into account author point of view
  • Analyzes information or arguments from sources taking into account author point of view
  • Analyzes information or arguments from sources taking into account purpose
  • Analyzes information or arguments from sources taking into account relevant context information
  • Analyzes information or arguments from sources to question and make judgments about their credibility
  • Thoroughly analyzes and evaluates information or arguments from sources taking into account author point of view
  • Thoroughly analyzes and evaluates information or arguments from sources taking into account purpose
  • Thoroughly analyzes and evaluates information or arguments from sources taking into account relevant context information
  • Thoroughly analyzes and evaluates information or arguments from sources to question and make judgments about their credibility and to select credible sources
Apply / Transfer Knowledge (Reasoning)


What is the evidence that the student can develop an accurate understanding of a topic and apply/ transfer their knowledge to a new situation ?

  • Relies primarily on one source
  • Develops an over-simplified understanding of a topic/issue
  • Makes broad generalizations that are based on faulty reasoning OR over-generalizes
  • Unable to draw connections to the problem at hand
  • Understanding of the problem at hand is incomplete
  • Identifies broad or general relationships among evidence from diverse sources (e.g., compare and contrast)
  • Builds a reasonable understanding of a topic/issue
  • Makes broad but reasonable generalizations
  • Draws connections from generalizations to develop a general understanding the problem at hand
  • Draws generalizations to develop a general understanding the problem at hand
  • Identifies clear and specific relationships among evidence from diverse sources (e.g., compare and contrast, classify, cause and effect, process and product)
  • Builds an accurate understanding of a topic/issue
  • Makes logical, evidence-based generalizations
  • Draws specific connections to develop an accurate understanding of the problem at hand
  • Extends generalizations to develop an accurate understanding of the problem at hand
  • Develops a systems model to precisely represent the complex relationships among evidence from diverse sources
  • Builds a credible, knowledge-based, complex understanding of a topic/issue
  • Makes logical, evidence-based generalizations, with an understanding of their limitations and exceptions
  • Draws specific connections and extends generalizations to develop an accurate and complete understanding of the problem at hand
  • Extends generalizations to develop an accurate and complete understanding of the problem at hand
Solving Problems



What is the evidence that the student can identify, weigh, and select from multiple approaches to solve a problem?
  • Identifies an approach to solve the problem, answer the question, or meet the challenge that is based on guesswork
  • Does not weigh the relative effectiveness of proposed solutions or approaches
  • Selects an approach that is not likely to succeed
  • Explanation for the proposed solution or approach is unclear
  • Identifies one plausible approach to solve the problem, answer the question, or meet the challenge
  • Weighs the relative effectiveness of one proposed solution or approach
  • Selects an approach that is likely to be effective
  • Explains clearly why the proposed solution or approach is likely to be effective
  • Identifies multiple plausible approaches to solve the problem, answer the question, or meet the challenge
  • Weighs the relative effectiveness of proposed solutions or approaches
  • Selects an approach that is likely to be effective
  • Provides clear, detailed explanations supported by evidence
  • Identifies multiple plausible approaches to solve the problem, answer the question, or meet the challenge, including the limitations of each approach
  • Weighs the relative effectiveness of proposed solutions or approaches
  • Selects the approach most likely to be effective
  • Provides clear, detailed, and convincing explanations supported by evidence
Evaluate & Reflect


What is the evidence that the student can evaluate the effectiveness of an approach, or propose a new course of action when faced with unexpected/ unsuccessful results?
  • Does not acknowledge alternative explanation or interpretation, unanswered question, potential source of error, or limitation of proposed approach
  • Dismisses unexpected or unsuccessful results without identifying possible reasons
  • Does not attempt to identify alternative approaches
  • Briefly alludes to one alternative explanation or interpretation, unanswered question, potential source of error, or limitation of proposed approach
  • When faced with unexpected or unsuccessful results, attempts to identify a possible reason
  • Makes a surface-level revision to the approach
  • Acknowledges alternative explanations or interpretations, unanswered questions, potential sources of error, or limitations of proposed approach to solve the problem, answer the question, or meet the challenge
  • When faced with unexpected or unsuccessful results, identifies multiple explanatory factors,
  • Proposes a new and logical course of action that is likely to be effective
  • Acknowledges and responds to alternative explanations or interpretations, unanswered questions, potential sources of error, or limitations of proposed approach to strengthen or revise the approach
  • When faced with unexpected or unsuccessful results, weighs multiple explanatory factors
  • Proposes a new and logical course of action that is most likely to be effective