How often have you attempted to grade your students’ work only to find that the assessment criteria were vague and the performance behavior was overly subjective? 🙂

Would you be able to justify the assessment or grade if you had to defend it?

The Rubric is an authentic assessment tool which is particularly useful in assessing criteria which are complex and subjective.

Authentic assessment is geared toward assessment methods which correspond as closely as possible to real world experience. It was originally developed in the arts and apprenticeship systems, where assessment has always been based on performance.

The instructor observes the student in the process of working on something real, provides feedback, monitors the student’s use of the feedback, and adjusts instruction and evaluation accordingly. Authentic assessment takes this principle of evaluating real work into all areas of the curriculum.

The rubric is one authentic assessment tool which is designed to simulate real life activity where students are engaged in solving real-life problems. It is a formative type of assessment because it becomes an ongoing part of the whole teaching and learning process. Students themselves are involved in the assessment process through both peer and self-assessment.

As students become familiar with rubrics, they can assist in the rubric design process. This involvement empowers the students and as a result, their learning becomes more focused and self-directed. Authentic assessment, therefore, blurs the lines between teaching, learning, and assessment.

The advantages of using rubrics in assessment are that they:

  • allow assessment to be more objective and consistent
  • focus the teacher to clarify his/her criteria in specific terms
  • clearly show the student how their work will be evaluated and what is expected
  • promote student awareness of about the criteria to use in assessing peer performance
  • provide useful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the instruction
  • provide benchmarks against which to measure and document progress

Rubrics can be created in a variety of forms and levels of complexity, however, they all contain common features which:

  • focus on measuring a stated objective (performance, behavior, or quality)
  • use a range to rate performance
  • contain specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met

In this module you will create your own rubric for assessing student performance regarding a given objective. Articles on the Web and some examples of rubrics will focus your effort and stimulate your creativity.

What is a rubric?

  • A rubric is a scoring guide that seeks to evaluate a student’s performance based on the sum of a full range of criteria rather than a single numerical score.
  • A rubric is an authentic assessment tool used to measure students’ work.
    • Authentic assessment is used to evaluate students’ work by measuring the product according to real-life criteria. The same criteria used to judge a published author would be used to evaluate students’ writing.
    • Although the same criteria are considered, expectations vary according to one’s level of expertise. The performance level of a novice is expected be lower than that of an expert and would be reflected in different standards. For example, in evaluating a story, a first-grade author may not be expected to write a coherent paragraph to earn a high evaluation. A tenth grader would need to write coherent paragraphs in order to earn high marks.
  • A rubric is a working guide for students and teachers, usually handed out before the assignment begins in order to get students to think about the criteria on which their work will be judged.
  • A rubric enhances the quality of direct instruction.

Rubrics can be created for any content area including math, science, history, writing, foreign languages, drama, art, music, and even cooking! Once developed, they can be modified easily for various grade levels. The following rubric was created by a group of postgraduate education students at the University of San Francisco, but could be developed easily by a group of elementary students.

Why use rubrics?

Many experts believe that rubrics improve students’ end products and therefore increase learning. When teachers evaluate papers or projects, they know implicitly what makes a good final product and why. When students receive rubrics beforehand, they understand how they will be evaluated and can prepare accordingly. Developing a grid and making it available as a tool for students’ use will provide the scaffolding necessary to improve the quality of their work and increase their knowledge.

In brief:

  • Prepare rubrics as guides students can use to build on current knowledge.
  • Consider rubrics as part of your planning time, not as an additional time commitment to your preparation.

Once a rubric is created, it can be used for a variety of activities. Reviewing, re-conceptualizing, and revisiting the same concepts from different angles improves understanding of the lesson for students. An established rubric can be used or slightly modified and applied to many activities. For example, the standards for excellence in a writing rubric remain constant throughout the school year; what does change is students’ competence and your teaching strategy. Because the essentials remain constant, it is not necessary to create a completely new rubric for every activity.

There are many advantages to using rubrics:

  • Teachers can increase the quality of their direct instruction by providing focus, emphasis, and attention to particular details as a model for students.
  • Students have explicit guidelines regarding teacher expectations.
  • Students can use rubrics as a tool to develop their abilities.
  • Teachers can reuse rubrics for various activities.
  • Rubrics tell students they must do a careful job. Information on the expected quality of the task performed is given to students.
  • Rubrics set standards. Students know in advance what they have to do to achieve a certain level.
  • Rubrics clarify expectations. When levels are described in clear language, everyone knows what is required. The quality of student work will improve.
  • Rubrics help students take responsibility for their own learning. Students use rubrics to help study information the teacher values.
  • Rubrics have value to other stakeholders. Anyone (including colleagues, parents and community members) seeing a rubric and a student score based on that rubric knows what content was mastered by that student.

Disadvantages of Rubrics:

  • Rubrics are hard to design.
  • Rubrics are time-consuming to design.
  • “A rubric is only as useful as it is good.  Using a bad rubric is a waste of time…” –Michael Simkins in “Designing Great Rubrics”

Analytic vs. Holistic Rubrics

  • Holistic rubric gives a single score or rating for an entire product or performance based on an overall impression of a student’s work
  • Analytical trait rubric divides a product or performance into essential traits or dimensions so that they can be judged separately—one analyzes a product or performance for essential traits

New Picture (1)

New Picture

Steps in Rubric Development

  1. Determine learning outcomes
  2. Keep it short and simple (Include 4 – 15 items; use brief statements or phrases)
  3. Each rubric item should focus on a different skill
  4. Focus on how students develop and express their learning
  5. Evaluate only measurable criteria
  6. Ideally, the entire rubric should fit on one sheet of paper
  7. Reevaluate the rubric (Did it work? Was it sufficiently detailed?)

Terms to use in measuring range/scoring levels

Needs Improvement…Satisfactory…Good…Exemplary


Needs work…Good…Excellent


Numeric scale ranging from 1 to 5, for example

An online Rubric Generator; a great tool in constructing a good rubric, is available here.



Creating rubrics

Performance Assessment

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators