A rubric can be used to evaluate student learning through essays and authentic assessments, including projects, papers, and essay portions of exams. There are multiple ways to score these performance assessments including: (a) analytic rubrics with categories and scores; (b) holistic rubrics with one axis of descriptions for each possible score without specific categories; and (c) checklists with a simple rating for each criteria within specific categories (Brown, 2018). While they can be time consuming to develop, rubrics can be used by students to understand assignment expectations, deepen learning, and enhance the feedback instructors provide to students. Rubrics can easily be integrated into assignments and graded discussions in Canvas.   


? Have questions about how rubrics can be useful? The National Education Association takes on common questions about rubrics and the basics on how to develop your own rubrics

? Wondering if you need to take the time to develop a rubric? Take this short self-evaluation from Introduction to Rubrics to help determine if the assignment would benefit from developing a grading rubric. The authors, Stevens & Levi also provide several sample rubrics for inspiration and templates to help you get started

? Need a quick way to try this out? Rubistar is a free rubric generator for a variety of projects and topics. After selecting a category, the descriptors for each criterion (above standard, meets standard, approaching standard, and below standards) are automatically added and can be edited.  While there is a K-12 focus, this is a great resource for first time rubric development.

? Want to see some really great examples? The Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University provides an overview of the purpose of rubrics, and then includes detailed examples of rubrics for papers, projects, oral presentations, and class participation. Although the examples can be used as starting points for any subject area, specific examples are provided for assignments in philosophy, psychology, anthropology, history, design, and engineering. Examples are provided for undergraduate and advanced undergraduate or graduate students. 

? Rubrics don’t have to just be for final products! Almagno (2016) provides suggestions for using rubrics to guide student thinking during class activities and throughout the writing process. Tips and suggestions include using rubrics during planning, drafting, and revising of a paper. In addition, rubrics can be used identify areas for additional instruction and students can use the rubric to evaluate their work using the rubric before submitting the assignment for grading. 

? Need an idea on how to encourage more participation during class and small group discussions? Try using a rubric! Chapnick (2009) provides ideas to use a rubric to evaluate student progress over the semester. Develop a class participation rubric clearly outlining the requirements for each class. 

? Struggling to find a way to word criterion descriptions in discussion posts? Ferdinand (2011) provides suggestions for revising the wording of criterion descriptors to be more culturally sensitive.

? A 28 minute podcast from Teaching in Higher Ed by Stachowiak (2014). The presenters explain common concerns and responses to those concerns regarding rubrics. They clarify the difference between a checklist and a rubric and explain the benefits of developing grading rubrics. The two professors share examples and experiences from their own teaching. 

? In this 2020 video from a discussion from the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education. In this 12 minute video, faculty discuss using rubrics and concerns about reliability of grading between instructors. Some strategies for norming are discussed.  

Faculty-to-Faculty Ideas

Idea TitleSummary
Get Colleagues FeedbackAsk colleagues who were not involved in the rubric's development to apply it to some products or behaviors and revise as needed to eliminate ambiguities.

Develop Detailed CriteriaDevelop criteria that reflect knowledge and/or use of content and add them to the rubric
Leave Room for CreativityLeave room for creativity. I call this the “wow factor”. All of my rubrics have “going beyond expectations” as one of its criteria. This is especially important if you are a proponent of project-based learning. Students should not simply be asked to meet expectations. While that may be all they do, if they want the maximum points, they should need to push themselves to come up with an imaginative way to go beyond what is asked. This pushes them outside of their comfort zone and encourages creativity. This resourcefulness will undoubtedly help them later in their future workplace.
List the Most Relevant ObjectivesList the most relevant objectives of the assignment. There are likely many aims you have for the assignment (presentation, correctness, organization, vocabulary, etc.), but make sure you are using the criteria that relate to the assignment. What are you trying to assess with THIS assignment? You may want students’ work to be neat, or follow a certain format, but do they need to be graded on it? (Sometimes: yes!) Then, choose three to seven measurable criteria that satisfy the objectives.
Involve Your StudentsDevelop a rubric with your students for an assignment or group project. Students can then monitor themselves and their peers using agreed-upon criteria that they helped develop. In my experience, students will create higher standards for themselves than faculty members would impose on them.
Have Students Apply The RubricI have students apply my rubric to sample products before they create their own. I have found that students are quite accurate when doing this, and this process should help them evaluate their own projects as they are being developed. The ability to evaluate, edit, and improve draft documents is an important skill and a leadership skill.
I have students exchange paper drafts and give peer feedback using the rubric. Then, I give students a few days to revise before submitting the final draft to me.
Adapt Existing Effective RubricsWhy reinvent the wheel? I like to adapt an already existing rubric that has worked well for others and save a great deal of time. A faculty member in my program often already has a good one.
Provide ExemplarsCollect samples of student work that exemplify each point on the scale or level. A rubric will not be meaningful to students or colleagues until the anchors/benchmarks/exemplars are available.
RevisionsExpect to revise.
Share Good Rubrics with OthersWhen you have a good rubric, SHARE IT!

Related Literature


  • Brookhard, S. M. (2013). How to create and use rubrics for formative assessment and grading. ASCD: Alexandria, Va. 
    • Ever get stuck on how to consider and word differences in student performance in the descriptions grid? Then this is the book for you! This easy to read resource helps instructors shift the focus of rubrics from the task to be done to the specific criteria that students need to successfully demonstrate in the assignment. There are multiple examples and suggestions for how to share the rubric and feedback with students. preview of chapter 1 is available online.  



  • Clay, B. (2001).  Is this a trick question? A short guide to writing effective test questions. 
    • This guide provides strategies and guidelines for addressing multiple methods to evaluate student performance including multiple choice, true-false, matching, and fill-in-the-blank test questions. In the section on authentic assessments, starting on p. 48, Clay (2001) proves a step-by-step guide for developing a rubric. After determining learning outcomes, determine measurable criteria for each outcome, and develop a grid. Compare student work to the rubric to make revisions to the descriptions and scale to make any necessary changes. Suggestions are included for an analytic rubric.


  • Mertler, C. A. (2001). Designing scoring rubrics for your classroom. Practical Assessment, Research, and Evaluation, 7, Article 25. DOI: 
    • Mertler (2001) provides a comparison of holistic and analytic rubrics. This short article provides an overview and templates for developing the two types of rubrics and considers the types of decisions instructors must make when developing rubrics. While the examples have a K-12 focus, the sevenstep process for designing holistic and analytic rubrics is a useful resource.  


  • Popham, W. J. (1997). What’s wrong –and what’s right –with rubrics. Educational Leadership, 55(2), 72-75.  
    • Looking to enhance your rubric game? This article provides a summary of four common errors when developing rubrics and ways to improve rubrics to focus on improving student understanding and learning.  


  • Stevens, D. D., Levi, A. J., & Walvoord, B. E. (2012). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning (2nd ed)Stylus Publishing.  
    • This book discusses the basics of a rubric and how to develop them for a variety of purposes. The appendices provides specific examples and templates. 
  • Tierney, R., & Simon, M. (2004). What’s still wrong with rubrics: Focusing on the consistency of performance criteria across scale levels. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 9(2). Available online: 
    • Furthering the discussion of common errors in rubric development, Tierney & Simon (2004) focus on analytic rubrics and improving criteria descriptions. Specific examples and non-examples are provided.