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How to develop a rubric

Last updated on 5 February 2024
A rubric is a useful tool to assess students' products and skills, for example when giving feedback or assessing an assignment or presentation. But how do you develop a rubric and what options should you consider? In this didactic tip you will find a step-by-step plan and tips and tricks for its use.

First freshen up your knowledge on what a rubric is? Read it here.

1: step-by-step plan: how to develop a rubric?
Creating a rubric requires a systematic approach, so follow the steps below and keep in mind that a rubric is often revised.

  1. Determine what you want to assess through the subject's learning objectives.   
  2. Identify the criteria to be assessed (rows). These are also called dimensions. 
    • Specify the skills, knowledge and/or behaviours you are looking for. 
    • Narrow the criteria down to the most important ones for assessment. 
  3. Identify the levels of mastery, or scale (columns). 
    • Aim for an even number (four or six), because with an odd number, students who don't know it well often choose the middle answer category. An even number ensures that they must make a choice.  
  4. Describe each mastery level for each criterion (cells). 
    • Describe the best work to expect with these characteristics (the highest category), an unacceptable product (the lowest category) and the intermediate levels.  
    • Important: each description and criterion should be mutually exclusive. 
  5. Test the rubric by applying it to an assignment, for example, and evaluate: 
    • Does the rubric relate to the outcomes to be assessed?  
    • Does it also cover items outside it?  
    • Is the rubric useful, feasible, manageable, and practical? (If yes, find multiple ways to use the rubric: programme assessment, assignment assessment, peer assessment, student self-assessment). 
  6. Discuss the rubric with peers, adjust it after their feedback. 
    • Important: enlist the help of colleagues in developing a rubric for programme assessment. Rubrics promote shared expectations and consistent assessment practices that benefit both teachers and students. 

 Tips and tricks:

  • Find and adapt an existing rubric. It is rare to find a rubric that is exactly right for your situation, but you can adapt an existing one that works well and save a lot of time. For instance, ask a colleague or search for one on Google. Conversely, share your successful rubrics with colleagues..  
  • Collect examples of products that illustrate each point on the scale or level. A list is only useful for students or colleagues if the different examples are available. 
  • Use ChatGPT to help you create the basis for a rubric. 
  • Teachers often find it useful to set the minimum score required for a student's work to be considered satisfactory. For example, teachers may decide that a "1" or "2" on a four-point scale (4=excellent, 3=good, 2=satisfactory, 1=unsatisfactory) does not meet minimum quality expectations. We encourage a norming session to determine the score needed to meet expectations (also called bag/pass limit). 

2: what is calibrating? 
When several teachers use a rubric to assess assignments, they do need to interpret the rubric in the same way to achieve reliable assessments and avoid assessor effects as much as possible. The process by which teachers train for this is also known as "norming" or "calibration". For this, you can turn to the advisors of the VU Centre for Teaching & Learning

3: how to use a rubric in your course?
Hand out the rubric with the assignment so that students know what you expect of them and how they will be assessed. This helps students achieve the learning outcomes by steering their work in the right direction. 

  • Use a rubric to assess students' work and give back the rubric with the assessment scores on it. This saves time writing extensive comments: you circle or highlight relevant segments of the rubric. Some teachers provide space for additional comments on the rubric, either within each section or at the end. 
  • Together with your students, develop a rubric for an assignment or group project. Students can check themselves and their peers against agreed criteria that they themselves have helped develop. Many teachers find that students set themselves higher standards than teachers would set them. 
  • Have students apply your rubric to sample products before they create their work. Teachers report that students do this quite accurately, and this process helps them evaluate their own projects as they work on them. The ability to evaluate, edit and improve draft documents is an important skill. 
  • Have students exchange drafts of the paper and give each other feedback using the rubric (Peer Review using FeedbackFruits Peer Review, for example). Then give students a few days to revise their papers before submitting the final product. For more insights into their learning, ask them to also submit the draft and rubric with their peer review along their final paper. 
  • Have the students self-assess their products using the rubric and hand in their self-assessment along with the product; the comparison between their own assessment and that of the teacher, again provides insights. 

4: examples of rubrics 
Are you looking for more inspiration or examples rubrics? The University of Hawaii collected these rubrics from elsewhere and compiled them (Google Drive documents):