November 6th, 2008

Developing Rubrics


I attended the recent ISETL Conference (International Society for Exploring Teaching and Learning). The conference is definitely worth attending. Of course, we do have a vested interest in your attendance at The Teaching Professor Conference, but even more important than that, is getting you to recognize the value of attending a teaching-learning conference. They offer such opportunities for growth and renewal. Check out: and

Anyway, I attended an excellent session at the conference on developing rubrics. In essence a rubric is a delineation of your grading criteria for a particular assignment. They are valuable for two reasons. First, they force teachers to make the grading criteria explicit. True, from experience grading bunches of whatever, we do know a good one when we see it, but making the criteria explicit helps us understand why. It clarifies, deepens and refines our thinking. Second, rubrics benefit students. They answer the perennial question “what do you want?” They also help to explain why a piece of work is a B and not an A.

Rubrics can be as detailed and specific as you want to make them. They can be holistic (meaning every criteria counts equally) or they can be weighted (with more points assigned to some criteria than others). From a curriculum design perspective, rubrics should link to learning outcomes. In other words, whatever it is you want students to learn by participating in this group project, presentation, paper, lab should be apparent in the assessment criteria that end up on the rubric.

Here are some good Web sources worth checking out, if the idea of developing a rubric is of interest. The site helps teachers develop rubrics. It takes you right through the process, offering helpful templates and possible items. Yes, it’s free. Jill Lane, who with colleagues Susan Copeland and David Ludley gave the presentation, directed us (and invites you) to the Clayton State website ( which includes more helpful background information on rubrics, a step-by-step process for developing them and samples, like one that can be used to assess oral presentations.

If students are given examples and have experiences seeing them used, they can be involved both in the development of rubrics and in their use. Rubrics are a great way to build both self and peer assessment skills.

—Maryellen Weimer