Rubric Tool

What is a rubric?

Rubric ExampleA rubric is a great tool for teachers because it is a simple way to set up a grading criteria for assignments. Not only is this tool useful for teachers, it is helpful for students as well. A rubric defines in writing what is expected of the student to get a particular grade on an assignment.

Heidi Goodrich Andrade, a rubrics expert, defines a rubric as "a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work or 'what counts.' " For example, a rubric for an essay might tell students that their work will be judged on purpose, organization, details, voice, and mechanics.

A good rubric also describes levels of quality for each of the criteria. These levels of performance may be written as different ratings (e.g., Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement) or as numerical scores (e.g., 4, 3, 2, 1) Under mechanics, for example, the rubric might define the lowest level of performance as "7-10 misspellings, grammar, and punctuation errors," and the highest level as "all words are spelled correctly; your work shows that you understand subject-verb agreement, when to make words possessive, and how to use commas, semicolons and periods."

Why use rubrics?

According to Heidi Goodrich Andrade:
  • Rubrics help students and teachers define "quality."
  • When students use rubrics regularly to judge their own work, they begin to accept more responsibility for the end product. It cuts down on the "am I done yet?" questions.
  • Rubrics reduce the time teachers spend grading student work and makes it easier for teachers to explain to students why they got the grade they did and what they can do to improve.
  • Parents usually like the rubrics concept once they understand it, and they find rubrics useful when helping with homework. As one teacher says: "They know exactly what their child needs to do to be successful."

Involve your students

  • Understanding a Rubric: Arrange the students into groups of four or more and give them the rubric you will be using for a particular task. Tell the students to discuss the task you have given them and create quick samples of papers which would receive marks in each of the categories. The groups will then present their results to the whole class.
  • Creating a Rubric: It is a good idea to involve your students in creating their own rubrics for classroom assignments. A student who can write the rubric for a math problem knows the whole process inside and out, and he/she can apply the knowledge and skills learned from the process to future assignments.

How do I create a good rubric?

Sometimes it's not possible to find an appropriate existing rubric to use or modify. To create your own rubric, follow these steps.

1. List the criteria that will be used in assessing performance in the first column.
The criteria you use should be related to the learning outcome(s) that you are assessing. For example, a musical performance might be rated for intonation, rhythmic accuracy, and tone quality and an oral presentation might be rated for content, organization, delivery and language. Be sure that your criteria are explicit. "Neatness" would not be a good criterion because the term "neat" is not explicit enough. What is neatness?You may want to look at some actual examples of student work to see if you have omitted any important criteria.

2. Determine your performance ratings / levels in the first row.
Examples of performance ratings may be:

  • Descriptors (In Progress, Basic, Proficient, Advanced)
  • Numbers (1,2,3,4)

3. Write a description for each performance level.
Describe the different levels of performance that match each criterion. You may want to start with the best and worst levels of quality, and then fill in the middle levels based on your knowledge of common problems. It may be helpful to sort examples of actual student work into three piles: the very best, the poorest and those in between.  Try to articulate what makes the good assignments good and the poor assignments poor.

4. After use, evaluate and revise rubric as needed.