Building and Using Rubrics

Questions to Ask When Developing a Rubric

  1. What criteria must be met in student work to regard it as high quality?
  2. How many levels of achievement should be defined?
  3. What is a clear description for each level of quality?
  4. What are the consequences of performing at each level?
  5. What grading scheme will be used in the rubric?
  6. What aspects of the rubric are good and bad? How to improve the rubric?
  7. Is the product more important than the process, or are both of equal value?

Different Ways of Getting Started

  • Collect student work, and try scoring it with your existing rubric. Pay attention to details and questions that arise, and use them to perfect your rubric.
  • Collect student work, and sort it into quality groups. Describe the features of each sorted level. Write specific details for each performance level. Think about different grading levels when placing the student work into different groups. This process will link your rubric and grading.
  • List all details of performance that you are interested in knowing about. The most important dimensions of performance will form your rubric’s traits. (This process yields an analytical rubric.)
  • Read what other experts know about the skills and the different levels of performance you want to consider. Search for other rubrics that describe the same skills or performance. Compare those rubric’s traits with your own. Write a clear and neutral definition for each trait. Neutral definitions describe the trait and do not label good or poor performance.
  • Find multiple examples for each of the different levels of your rubric.


To evaluate your rubric you have to consider each of the following features of your rubric.

Content (coverage) – tells students what they need in order to succeed for the assignment. The rubric content should cover ALL that is essential and leave out details that will not be graded. If the modality of presentation does not have to follow a very specific pattern, allow students leeway to present content in different modalities. Otherwise, everyone will try to conform too closely to the rubric.

Clarity (detail) – a rubric should describe the dimensions of performance in sufficient detail that two raters who understand the rubric in the same way would evaluate a particular performance or product in the same way. Provide samples of student work for each level. Avoid mere listing of categories of evaluation without definitions of each category.

Usability – a rubric should be practical. A scored or graded performance will reflect the rubric’s traits. Thus, students will not be left questioning why the performance or product resulted in a certain score. The rubric should help students succeed, and to understand what needs correction if they do not do well.

Technical quality – a rubric should be fair to all students, including ESL students. A good rubric is reliable: if two raters use the rubric to rate the same work they should assign pretty close scores; raters should be in agreement.

Sample Rubrics

Grading With Rubrics

  1. Rubrics are used in order to show students expected standards and the criteria that we use for grading and assessment.
  2. Rubrics also show students different levels (degrees) of performance (e.g., poor, good, excellent). Consequently, students are better able to self-evaluate in preparation for the assessment.
  3. Students might participate in the development of a rubric, setting criteria and describing different levels of performance.
  4. As a control for grader differences, rubrics are useful in the assessment process when using different graders, or when a panel of assessors is called for.

Use of Rubrics in Grading

  • Decide ahead of time how many scale points will meet your needs for best performance.
  • What are the important dimensions of the performance or product that the rubric will measure? Decide how many traits (specific dimensions) you want to measure.
  • Best to avoid using strict percentages and converting results of each assessment into letter grades. Score all assignments on one or more traits and accumulate points or, if you count only the final performance of the semester, that final performance becomes the letter grade.
  • On a rubric that uses scores on a scale 1–5, a “3” is described as average (B). However, when the obtained score is divided by the total possible score (3/5), the percentage obtained (60%), often would represent a failing score (F). Try to come up with a logic rule to convert scores or points to letter grades instead of using percentages.


Taking into consideration scores made on a series of assignments, students with:

  • At least 40% scores of 5, and no more than 10% scores lower than 4 = A
  • At least 10% scores of 5, and no more than 30% scores lower than 4 = B
  • At least 20% scores higher than 4, and no more than 10% lower than 3 = C
  • At least 10% scores higher than 4, and no more than 30% lower than 3 = D
  • Anything lower than the above = F

Example 2

Add all points from a series of assignments then use a logical formula to transform the total points into letter grades: 91-100 =A; 81-90 = B; 71-80 = C; 61-70= D; below 69 =F.