Zine Rubrics

This is a summary of a discussion about teaching with and evaluating zines on the zine librarians email list. Zine librarians recognize that grading zines at all is controversial.

photo of a cat with a Rubik's cube

Cat with a Rubik’s Cube from Wikimedia Commons

Jason Luther, Rowan University

This [assignment] is from Self-Publishing, an elective I teach every fall at Rowan U for writing majors.

Because the assignment is organized around a public book festival, I tend to think very little about grades, but more about creative process — and in the spirit of that process I try to build good work via experiences and collaboration. So in that spirit there’s no rubric, but I think a student-created rubric, one made together through class discussion where everyone can share examples (from idk say your archive!) could be a productive exercise if the prof feels attached to this idea.


Sam Schmitt, Augsburg University

This is what I used for my students last semester; however, we studied zines extensively and read the book Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism by Alison Piepmeier so they were very familiar with the expectations.

I usually make a rubric for my university, particularly helpful at protecting zines as a subjugated medium when administration is hyperfocused on assessment and measuring student learning outcomes. I really don’t like having to use a rubric for art but I am often asked to quantify and measure things that are difficult to measure.

I just ask that you please credit my intellectual and creative property if you adapt it or borrow aspects of my rubric. Recommended notation: Adopted from Sam Schmitt’s Spring 2022 WST 201: Introduction to Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies course, Augsburg University.


Cathy Camper, author
So while some people are against grading zines, sometimes that’s the only way teachers can get them into the curriculum. Also, zines provide a creative, exciting format alternative for kids, instead of writing a paper or doing a presentation.

A few years ago, when I was doing library outreach to schools, and zine workshops, a teacher shared her rubrics for my workshop with me, and said I could share them with other educators. I don’t have her name, but I know she was OK with sharing them. This was for middle school, but would probably work for high school kids as well. [Note: we share this unidentified teacher’s rubric with gratitude, if not explicit permission and will remove it without question, if asked]

Usually I would do a presentation for 15-20 minutes on the history of zines, tips for making them. I’d also talk about how we’re subject to thousand of images/messages/advertising a day, but by using collage (from magazine images and clip art) and other zine techniques, kids could turn these images around, and use them to communicate their own ideas and thoughts (from the situationists’ detournement). The goal was for students to gain empowerment and expression.

I like that this teacher’s rubrics are created to reflect how much the student retained skills and used them for their zine. She shared the rubrics with the students, so they knew what was expected of them. You can see the topic for their zines was conflict management. I also tell kids that though they are learning zine making skills in school, the skills are ones they can use throughout life, and I gave them examples. So this also makes me feel like having kids think and work intentionally on their zines might help them retain skills and use them again.


Heather McShane, via Derek Potts, DePaul University,

Attached is zine rubric from a professor I work with at DePaul whose students create a zine as their final project for the class.


Kelly McElroy, Oregon State University
I’m a zine-grading skeptic, particularly for any kind of perzine, for the reasons outlined in that POC Zine Library piece [linked in the intro]. (I always share that with faculty!)

The core question here is, what are the learning outcomes? Often, I find you can assess the learning without assessing the zine as the product of that learning. For example, if the learning outcome has to do with students learning about zine culture and practices, ask them to write a few paragraphs describing the process of zine-making and what they learned. The zine can be assessed in an, yes, it was turned in, way, and then you can come up with a rubric to assess the reflection in more concrete terms.

If the zine is about sharing content (thinking of the Small Science Collective zines), it seems easier to have a rubric reflecting those pieces.

Finally, in the classes where I assign zines, we use a student-developed rubric. Maria Accardi shared this process with me — maybe she mentions it in the feminist pedagogy book? Anyway, by the time we get to this assignment, students have had a lot of experience with zines, and I ask them to each share 2-3 things that would indicate a successful project, vs an unsuccessful project. Developing the rubric is, in itself, a formative assessment, reflecting what students have learned about zines thus far in class. I then take those pieces and format them into a rubric, which students get to review and approve (or ask for changes in). Just yesterday in our class, students talked through someone’s suggestion that successful zines won’t just be intense blocks of text — something that won’t be true for everyone. We negotiated this into two different elements: it must be legible, and the layout should fit the content with some intention. (We’re still workshopping all this.)

The worst zine grading rubrics I’ve seen have really stiff and arbitrary requirements (X many pages, X many illustrations, etc), which seem to teach students that all zines have this weird checklist of things in them. Yuck!

One thought on “Zine Rubrics

  1. Molto interessante, già letto nella mailing list.
    Da parte mia, in Italia, tengo corsi di fanzine col preciso scopo di non insegnare come fare la fanzine, né che cosa bisogna inserire nella fanzine, del resto sarebbe impossibile, per una vera fanzine, ma esclusivamente per approfondire e far comprendere il concetto concreto di fanzine.
    Da questo apprendimento i corsisti possono, se vogliono, realizzare la propria fanzine, nel modo, formato e contenuto che più reputano per loro idoneo.
    I corsi sono di 12/16 lezioni di 2 ore l’una per un totale di 24/32 ore, durante i quali si presenta la storia della produzione auto-edita fanzinara in Italia, molto differente dalle altre nazioni, come del resto lo è per ogni nazione, si considera il prodotto sotto un aspetto di “contenitore” e, di seguito, il contenuto.
    Uso slide e documentazione varia per avere un approccio più diretto e semplificato con i corsisti, se si pensa che in Italia il 90% della popolazione non sa cosa è una fanzine e, la metà di coloro che lo sanno lo sa in modo errato, con informazioni dall’estero.
    Da anni seguo, come assistente esterno, la realizzazione di Tesi di Laurea universitarie, 9 complete e oltre 30 con collaborazione e partecipazione, e anche in questo caso, si lavora prima sulla storia, motivazione e fine del prodotto fanzinaro, inoltre i laureandi realizzano loro stessi una fanzine da presentare alla commissione.
    Ci sarebbe molto altro da aggiungere ma penso sia il caso di non disturbare troppo.

    GianLuca Umiliacchi
    Fanzinoteca d’Italia 0.2 – Centro Nazionale Studi Fanzine

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