Tips for Instructional Practice – Rubrics

Rubrics: Keys to Assessment

Guest Author – Emily Hixon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology

Man sitting at a desk with papers everywhere. He is throwing arrows at a bullseye.From a student’s perspective, our grading may sometimes seem this random. Giving students specific and targeted feedback can help a student understand the grade that was given and identify areas for improvement. Rubrics are a valuable assessment tool that can help you do just that.

Rubric Grid

A rubric is a guide, usually presented as a chart/grid, which identifies and describes various levels of performance along a task-specific set of criteria. Here’s an example of a rubric for assessing the quality of a grading rubric.:

Example rubric
Source: [Opens in New Window]


Rubrics have many benefits for both instructor and students.

  • Make expectations clear to students (and instructor) – If students know what is expected in an assignment, they can produce better work.  For this reason, it is important that you share the rubric with students when assigning student work. Students can also use the rubric to self-assess their work before submission.

  • Provide students with better, more informative feedback – Because a rubric breaks down a learning task into specific elements, faculty can easily indicate what aspects of a student’s performance are at an acceptable (or exemplary) level and what aspects need improvement.  For criteria where students earn a less than desirable rating, they can look at the higher rubric levels of relevant criteria and see what they need to do to earn a higher rating, thereby producing better work.

  • Identify areas for improvement across assignments – If similar criteria are included in multiple assignments, students (perhaps with the aid of faculty) can look across assignments to identify criteria where ratings are consistently below an acceptable level.  With focused feedback from faculty, students can target those areas for improvement.

  • Facilitates more consistent and objective assessment of student work – Having a well-defined set of criteria and clearly delineated levels of performance promotes accuracy and reliability in grading. Having detailed and specific descriptors is important in promoting consistency in scoring.

  • Reduce grading time for faculty! –Rubrics reduce uncertainty and allow a faculty member to score a student product on specific criteria rather than writing lengthy comments to explain the grade given. With the “basics” addressed in the rubric, faculty feedback can be more targeted and specific to individual students’ areas for improvement.

  • Improve peer feedback among students – Rubrics can also be used to encourage fair and meaningful feedback among peers.  If an activity requires peer feedback, incorporating a rubric into the process can improve the quality of feedback given and streamline the peer feedback process.

Although rubrics can be time-consuming to create, the benefits they offer are worth the initial investment of time. Rubistar ( is a helpful resource that can streamline the rubric creation process.

Using the Rubric tool within Blackboard Learn can maximize the benefit of using rubrics as they are integrated directly into the scoring process and presented to students in My Grades. For more information on creating a rubric in Blackboard Learn, view this OIT handout:

Additional resources:

You can find 40 more college-level rubrics in a variety of disciplines here:

Below is a sample rubric for online discussion.