11 steps for rubric development

by Bruce Getz
Ph.D. student, University of Florida

Bruce Getz

Bruce Getz

The first time I heard the word “rubric” I was in my first faculty meeting as a first-year teacher, and I had no idea the meaning of the term.

It took several weeks to work up the courage to ask more experienced teachers what a rubric was.  As a new teacher, unfamiliar with assessment practices, I had no idea the design and implementation of rubrics would play an integral part in my professional development and experience as an educator.

I have distilled the lessons I learned throughout my teaching career into the following approach to rubric development.

Before I outline the process of rubric development, it is important to understand the role of the individual teacher in rubric design.  Of the many assessment tools available to us rubrics may be the most versatile.  Rubrics allow individual educators an opportunity to create a custom-grading tool, which aligns directly to the course, lesson, and learning objective they are teaching.

However, the versatility of the rubric does come with the burden of a considerable amount of time in planning and designing an assessment tool which accurately assesses student work and knowledge.  Keep in mind that rubrics are not infinitely effective.  Your rubric will need to be revised and updated each time it is used.

Rubric Development in 11 steps:

1.  Choose the assignment

This seems an obvious first step, but challenge yourself to think about whether or not a rubric is the best assessment tool for this assignment.  Ensure you design your assignment and accompanying rubric to align with your student learning objectives.

2.  Describe the perfect submission

What does the “perfect” version of the student submission look like for this assignment?  Think about the details of what great student work would entail.

3.  Choose the rubric type

Holistic rubrics assess the student work as a whole, analytic rubrics assess individual parts of an assignment.  Holistic rubrics are most often associated with writing assessments like the GRE writing task or AP tests.

Analytic rubrics are good for breaking down an assignment into individual parts, for example in a group presentation, you might design the rubrics so that presentation slides are worth 20 points, communication effectiveness of the presenter is worth 20 points, and number of references are worth 10 points, etc.

4.  Create your grading scheme and layout

How many points will this assignment be worth?  What will the rubric look like on the page?  You are creating a visual tool, it is important it is organized and can be read easily.

5.  Write items and descriptors

Once you have the rubric laid out on the page, write the individual items you’ll assess and describe the characteristics of each item for target, acceptable, and unacceptable work.  For more details, check out the examples included with this blog post.

6.  Test your rubric

Grade past student work or other examples to ensure your rubric works the way you intended it to.

7.  Teach the rubric

Once finalized, you must teach the rubric to your students.  This is perhaps the most important part of the process.  If students don’t understand the rubric, or how it can be used to both guide and assess their work, the rubric is not as effective.

8.  Make the rubric available when you assign the work

Rubrics should be given to students before they begin their work.  Students will use the descriptions you’ve provided in the rubric to guide their efforts and work.

9.  Assess work and enter grades

This is where the hard work pays off.  Effective and well-designed rubrics make the grading process accurate, reliable, and quick.  Once students have turned in their work, use the rubric to assess their submissions.  Remember to transcribe grades from the graded rubrics to your grade book.

10.  Return graded rubrics to students

Students want to see their grades and your feedback.

11.  Revise the rubric

Don’t wait until the next time you give the assignment to revise the rubric.  You’ve just used the rubric 20+ times to grade student work and are very familiar with the document, make your revisions while the process is still fresh on your mind.

The following resources and examples offer a wealth of knowledge in designing rubrics for a wide variety of courses and assignments.

Timothy S. Brophy, UF Institutional Assessment – “Writing Effective Rubrics” PDF


UF Center for Instructional Technology & Training Rubric Resources

UF Institutional Assessment, AACU VALUE Rubrics:

University of Hawaii, Manoa Rubric Bank:

Rubric for a writing assignment — example_rubric_writing
Rubric for a video project — example_rubric_video-project_bruce_getz
Rubric for a group project — example_rubrics_group-presentations


Butler, S. M., & McMunn, N. D. (2006). A teacher’s guide to classroom assessment: Understanding and using assessment to improve student learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Chappuis, J. (2009). Seven strategies of assessment for learning.  Boston, MA:  Pearson Education.

Educational Testing Service. (2015). Scoring guide for the argument task.  Retrieved from https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/analytical_writing/argument/scoring_guide

Stevens, D. D. & Levi, A. J. (2005).  Sample rubrics packet.  Retrieved from http://www.introductiontorubrics.com/samples.html

Bruce Getz is a doctoral student in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida and a student in Mass Communication Teaching (MMC 6930). The blog post is based on a teaching presentation he made in class.

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