MenuMenu Image

Developing Rubrics

Rubric development is like writing a journal submission; it is unlikely you will get it perfect on the first draft. Below are reasons, parts, and suggestions for developing rubrics.

Even though rubrics can be challenging to develop, students and instructors find them beneficial for the following reasons:
· Expectations are provided
· Efficiency is increased
· Consistency is improved
· Subjectivity is reduced

There are four components to consider when developing a rubric: Task Description, Scale, Dimensions, and Description of Dimensions.

The Task Description is the assignment that you want students to complete. The advantage to providing the task description with the rubric is that students know the assignment and how they will be assessed on the same piece of paper.

The Scale provides the levels of attainment that students can earn on the assignment. It is strongly recommended that you use three levels of attainment the first time you develop a rubric for an assignment.

The Dimensions indicate the learning objectives of the assignment.

The Description of the Dimensions provides an explanation of what is anticipated for each dimension on the scale. This often takes a great deal of time to develop, as it requires the instructor to clearly express expectations.

Develop a 3-4 sentence Task Description of the assignment, in which you briefly explain the main purpose of the assignment. What is that you want students to do? Write a paper from a particular perspective? Provide an in class presentation about a specific topic? Develop content for a class wiki? Contribute to an online discussion forum?

The development of the Dimensions is challenging, as you need to decide what are the learning objectives of the assignment. Start with the purpose of the assignment. Why are you assigning this project to students? How does it fit with the course outcomes? By focusing on the purpose of the assignment and the relationship to the course outcomes you will figure out what is most important for students to demonstrate as a condition of success. This will help you figure out the Dimensions of the assignment.

Once you know the Dimensions you can develop the Scale. It is recommended that the first time you develop a rubric you include only three levels on the scale: Excellent, Competent, and Needs Work. It is easy to determine what is excellent work, what needs work and then figure out what is the middle ground. After using a rubric to assess papers, reflect on the student work and determine if it is possible to add a fourth level to the scale. Only add the fourth level when you are able to provide meaningful Descriptions of Dimensions for all of the Dimensions.

Once the Dimensions and the Scale are set, it is possible to write all of the Descriptions of Dimensions. Start with what you consider to be excellent work in a dimension, then what does it mean for that work to be considered, “Needs Work”. As you look at both of these descriptions, consider what would be involved for the work to be considered “Competent”.

Based on experience, it is often best to AVOID using numbers in the Descriptions of Dimensions. Many instructors find that 1-3 errors would be considered Excellent, 4-6 Competent and 7or more Needs Work. This is actually a bad idea, as students will argue whether something is an error or not. Instead use language, such as a few errors for Excellent, several errors for Competent, and many errors for Needs Work. This will provide you flexibility as the grader to make your own interpretations on the grade. Rubrics reduce subjectivity, but it is not recommended to remove all, as sometimes instructors want to have flexibility to make decisions on the grade.

Many faculty find that using an online rubric development site beneficial or will repurpose a rubric from another assignment. Both of these are excellent ideas, however it is encouraged to review the rubric and ensure it represents the assignment provided to your students.

Additional information about rubric development can be found in “Introduction to Rubrics, 2nd Edition” by Dannelle D. Stevens and Antonia J. Levi. The CELT Library has 3 copies of this book.

Additional Resources:
University of West Florida:

Cornelll University:

University of California - Berkley: