Scientific Abilities Assessment Rubrics (SAAR)

Developed by Eugenia Etkina, Alan Van Heuvelen, Suzanne White-Brahmia, David T. Brookes, Michael Gentile, Sahana Murthy, David Rosengrant, and Aaron Warren

Purpose To help students self-assess and improve their work and to help instructors assess students’ scientific abilities as evidenced in their writing around experiments and design tasks.
Format Rubric
Duration N/A min
Focus Scientific reasoning (represent information in multiple ways, design and conduct experiments, communicate scientific ideas, collect and analyze experimental data, evaluate experimental results)
Level Upper-level, Intermediate, Intro college, High school



SAAR Implementation Guide

Everything you need to know about implementing the SAAR in your class.

E. Etkina, A. Van Heuvelen, S. White Brahmia, D. Brookes, M. Gentile, S. Murthy, D. Rosengrant, and A. Warren, Scientific abilities and their assessment, Phys. Rev. ST Phys. Educ. Res. 2 (2), (2006).
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Silver Validation
This is the second highest level of research validation, corresponding to at least 5 of the validation categories below.

Research Validation Summary

Based on Research Into:

  • Relevant theory and/or data

Studied Using:

  • Iterative use of rubric
  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Expert review

Research Conducted:

  • At multiple institutions
  • By multiple research groups
  • Peer-reviewed publication

The SAARs were developed based on “the history of the practice of physics, the taxonomy of cognitive skills, recommendations of science educators and an analysis of science-process test items.” (Etkina et al., 2006) Once the authors had the list of abilities, they broke up each ability into smaller sub-abilities that could be individually assessed with a rubric, and created a rubric for each of the seven abilities. The developers then used the rubrics to assess student work, and discussed discrepancies in scores and refined the rubrics. They repeated this process of rubric refinement until they reached an 80% agreement level on the rubric scores. The results of using the SAARs are published in one peer-reviewed publication. 


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Typical Results

These SAARs have been used to look at how introductory physics classes influence students' scientific abilities.  The developers tested these rubrics in their introductory physics lectures and labs and found the results shown below for a sub-set of the scientific abilities (Etkina et al., 2006).

The latest version of the SAARs, released in 2014, is Version 5.