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July 26

How to Create a Rubric: Introduction

Kelly Roell


 Updated on July 03, 2019

Perhaps you have never even thought about the care it takes to create a rubric. Perhaps you have never even heard of a rubric and its usage in education, in which case, you should take a peek at this article: “What is a rubric?” Basically, this tool that teachers and professors use to help them communicate expectations, provide focused feedback, and grade products, can be invaluable when the correct answer is not as cut and dried as Choice A on a multiple choice test. But creating a great rubric is more than just slapping some expectations on a paper, assigning some percentage points, and calling it a day. A good rubric needs to be designed with care and precision in order to truly help teachers distribute and receive the expected work. 

Steps to Create a Rubric

The following six steps will help you when you decide to use a rubric for assessing an essay, a project, group work, or any other task that does not have a clear right or wrong answer. 

Step 1: Define Your Goal

Before you can create a rubric, you need to decide the type of rubric you’d like to use, and that will largely be determined by your goals for the assessment.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How detailed do I want my feedback to be? 
  • How will I break down my expectations for this project?
  • Are all of the tasks equally important?
  • How do I want to assess performance?
  • What standards must the students hit in order to achieve acceptable or exceptional performance?
  • Do I want to give one final grade on the project or a cluster of smaller grades based on several criteria?
  • Am I grading based on the work or on participation? Am I grading on both?

Once you’ve figured out how detailed you’d like the rubric to be and the goals you are trying to reach, you can choose a type of rubric.

Step 2: Choose a Rubric Type

Although there are many variations of rubrics, it can be helpful to at least have a standard set to help you decide where to start. Here are two that are widely used in teaching as defined by DePaul University’s Graduate Educational department:

  • Analytic Rubric: This is the standard grid rubric that many teachers routinely use to assess students’ work. This is the optimal rubric for providing clear, detailed feedback. With an analytic rubric, criteria for the students’ work is listed in the left column and performance levels are listed across the top. The squares inside the grid will typically contain the specs for each level. A rubric for an essay, for example, might contain criteria like “Organization, Support, and Focus,” and may contain performance levels like “(4) Exceptional, (3) Satisfactory, (2) Developing, and (1) Unsatisfactory.” The performance levels are typically given percentage points or letter grades and a final grade is typically calculated at the end. The scoring rubrics for the ACT and SAT are designed this way, although when students take them, they will receive a holistic score. 
  • Holistic Rubric: This is the type of rubric that is much easier to create, but much more difficult to use accurately. Typically, a teacher provides a series of letter grades or a range of numbers (1-4 or 1-6, for example) and then assigns expectations for each of those scores. When grading, the teacher matches the student work in its entirety to a single description on the scale. This is useful for grading multiple essays, but it does not leave room for detailed feedback on student work. 

Step 3: Determine Your Criteria

This is where the learning objectives for your unit or course come into play. Here, you’ll need to brainstorm a list of knowledge and skills you would like to assess for the project. Group them according to similarities and get rid of anything that is not absolutely critical. A rubric with too much criteria is difficult to use! Try to stick with 4-7 specific subjects for which you’ll be able to create unambiguous, measurable expectations in the performance levels. You’ll want to be able to spot the criteria quickly while grading and be able to explain them quickly when instructing your students. In an analytic rubric, the criteria are typically listed along the left column. 

Step 4: Create Your Performance Levels

Once you have determined the broad levels you would like students to demonstrate mastery of, you will need to figure out what type of scores you will assign based on each level of mastery. Most ratings scales include between three and five levels. Some teachers use a combination of numbers and descriptive labels like “(4) Exceptional, (3) Satisfactory, etc.” while other teachers simply assign numbers, percentages, letter grades or any combination of the three for each level. You can arrange them from highest to lowest or lowest to highest as long as your levels are organized and easy to understand. 

Step 5: Write Descriptors for Each Level of Your Rubric

This is probably your most difficult step in creating a rubric.Here, you will need to write short statements of your expectations underneath each performance level for every single criteria. The descriptions should be specific and measurable. The language should be parallel to help with student comprehension and the degree to which the standards are met should be explained.

Again, to use an analytic essay rubric as an example, if your criteria was “Organization” and you used the (4) Exceptional, (3) Satisfactory, (2) Developing, and (1) Unsatisfactory scale, you would need to write the specific content a student would need to produce to meet each level. It could look something like this:




1 Unsatisfactory


Organization is coherent, unified, and effective in support of the paper’s purpose and
consistently demonstrates
effective and appropriate
between ideas and paragraphs.

Organization is coherent and unified in support of the paper’s purpose and usually demonstrates effective and appropriate transitions between ideas and paragraphs.

Organization is coherent in
support of the essay’s purpose, but is ineffective at times and may demonstrate abrupt or weak transitions between ideas or paragraphs.

Organization is confused and fragmented. It does not support the essay’s purpose and demonstrates a
lack of structure or coherence that negatively
affects readability.

A holistic rubric would not break down the essay’s grading criteria with such precision. The top two tiers of a holistic essay rubric would look more like this:

  • 6 = Essay demonstrates excellent composition skills including a clear and thought-provoking thesis, appropriate and effective organization, lively and convincing supporting materials, effective diction and sentence skills, and perfect or near perfect mechanics including spelling and punctuation. The writing perfectly accomplishes the objectives of the assignment.
  • 5 = Essay contains strong composition skills including a clear and thought-provoking thesis, but development, diction, and sentence style may suffer minor flaws. The essay shows careful and acceptable use of mechanics. The writing effectively accomplishes the goals of the assignment.

Step 6: Revise Your Rubric

After creating the descriptive language for all of the levels (making sure it is parallel, specific and measurable), you need to go back through and limit your rubric to a single page. Too many parameters will be difficult to assess at once, and may be an ineffective way to assess students’ mastery of a specific standard. Consider the effectiveness of the rubric, asking for student understanding and co-teacher feedback before moving forward. Do not be afraid to revise as necessary. It may even be helpful to grade a sample project in order to gauge the effectiveness of your rubric. You can always adjust the rubric if need be before handing it out, but once it’s distributed, it will be difficult to retract. 

Teacher Resources:

Roell, Kelly. (2020, August 26). How to Create a Rubric in 6 Steps. Retrieved from


Happy teaching!

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Posted July 26, 2022 by Ready Aim Shoot in category Bridges Educator Site

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