Problem Solving VALUE Rubric

The VALUE rubrics were developed by teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States through a process that examined many existing campus rubrics and related documents for each learning outcome and incorporated additional feedback from faculty. The rubrics articulate fundamental criteria for each learning outcome, with performance descriptors demonstrating progressively more sophisticated levels of attainment. The rubrics are intended for institutional-level use in evaluating and discussing student learning, not for grading. The core expectations articulated in all 16 of the VALUE rubrics can and should be translated into the language of individual campuses, disciplines, and even courses. The utility of the VALUE rubrics is to position learning at all undergraduate levels within a basic framework of expectations such that evidence of learning can by shared nationally through a common dialog and understanding of student success.

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Problem solving is the process of designing, evaluating and implementing a strategy to answer an open-ended question or achieve a desired goal.

Framing Language

Problem-solving covers a wide range of activities that may vary significantly across disciplines. Activities that encompass problem-solving by students may involve problems that range from well-defined to ambiguous in a simulated or laboratory context, or in real-world settings. This rubric distills the common elements of most problem-solving contexts and is designed to function across all disciplines. It is broad-based enough to allow for individual differences among learners, yet is concise and descriptive in its scope to determine how well students have maximized their respective abilities to practice thinking through problems in order to reach solutions.

This rubric is designed to measure the quality of a process, rather than the quality of an end-product. As a result, work samples or collections of work will need to include some evidence of the individual’s thinking about a problem-solving task (e.g., reflections on the process from problem to proposed solution; steps in a problem-based learning assignment; record of think-aloud protocol while solving a problem). The final product of an assignment that required problem resolution is insufficient without insight into the student’s problem-solving process. Because the focus is on institutional level assessment, scoring team projects, such as those developed in capstone courses, may be appropriate as well.


The definitions that follow were developed to clarify terms and concepts used in this rubric only.

  • Contextual Factors: Constraints (such as limits on cost), resources, attitudes (such as biases) and desired additional knowledge which affect how the problem can be best solved in the real world or simulated setting.
  • Critique: Involves analysis and synthesis of a full range of perspectives.
  • Feasible: Workable, in consideration of time-frame, functionality, available resources, necessary buy-in, and limits of the assignment or task.
  • "Off the shelf" solution: A simplistic option that is familiar from everyday experience but not tailored to the problem at hand (e.g. holding a bake sale to "save" an underfunded public library)
  • Solution: An appropriate response to a challenge or a problem.
  • Strategy: A plan of action or an approach designed to arrive at a solution. If the problem is a river that needs to be crossed, there could be a construction-oriented, cooperative (build a bridge with your community) approach and a personally oriented, physical (swim across alone) approach. An approach that partially applies would be a personal, physical approach for someone who doesn't know how to swim.
  • Support: Specific rationale, evidence, etc. for solution or selection of solution.

Acceptable Use and Reprint Permissions

For information on how to reference and cite the VALUE rubrics, visit: How to Cite the VALUE Rubrics.

Individuals are welcome to reproduce the VALUE rubrics for use in the classroom, on educational web sites, and in campus intra-institutional publications. A permission fee will be assessed for requests to reprint the rubrics in course packets or in other copyrighted print or electronic publications intended for sale. Please see AAC&U's permission policies for more details and information about how to request permission.

VALUE rubrics can also be used in commercial databases, software, or assessment products, but prior permission from AAC&U is required. For all uses of rubrics for commercial purposes, each rubric must be maintained in its entirety and without changes.