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Designing Clear Rubrics

A rubric is an evaluative tool that clarifies the components of an assessment, whether the assessment is written, oral, psychomotor, or visual. By using a pre-determined evaluative scale that corresponds to crucial components of an assessment, rubrics can be an effective tool to support assessment design, the learning process, and streamline grading activities.

Rubrics benefit students by providing a clear roadmap for success through specifying requirements, learning outcomes, and expectations for a given assessment. For students, rubrics increase transparency, reduce uncertainty and anxiety, and give students greater ownership and awareness of their stage of learning. The detailed feedback that rubrics facilitate helps students understand their strengths, pinpoint areas for improvement, offers valuable opportunities for self-reflection, and deepens their understanding of the course material (Selke, 2013).

By communicating transparent expectations, rubrics can ensure consistent, equitable grading across a course, and reduce the overall time spent on marking and grading. When aligned with course learning outcomes, rubrics help keep grading focused on the course concepts, knowledge, learning, and skills that you plan to evaluate.


Types of Rubrics

In general, there are three common types of rubrics. The assessment type will help you determine which type of rubric is best suited for each evaluation.


Analytic rubrics use a grid system to list assessment criteria along the left-hand axis (i.e., vertical) with the grade or achievement level along the top axis (i.e., horizontal). The grade level can be expressed numerically or in letter format (e.g., A, B, C etc.), with corresponding descriptions in each intersecting box. The instructor, or students in the case of peer evaluation, then indicate which grade-level the assessment has reached. Each of the components can be weighed differently. Download an Analytic Rubric template.


A holistic rubric uses a scaled assessment system (e.g., level 1, level 2, level 3 etc.), indicating the level or achievement the student has reached. The grade level is listed with a narrative description for the corresponding achievement. This type of rubric is less specific and can be well-suited for lower stakes assessments. Download a Holistic Rubric template.

Single point

A single-point rubric outlines the success criteria required for an assessment. Instead of focusing on various levels of achievement, it typically features one central column describing the key criteria or standards. Spaces are provided on either side of the central column for instructors to note strengths and areas for improvement. Single point rubrics provide specific and targeted feedback. Download a Single-Point Rubric template

Find an example of a Single Point Rubric for online discussions from the Taylor Institute at the University of Calgary. 

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Creating a rubric

Creating and refining a rubric takes time upfront, but its streamlining of the grading process and reduction in assessment questions and requests to re-mark assignments make it very worthwhile. Rubrics can be created with digital tools inside MyLearningSpace to streamline grading and as a fillable table that can be given to students and facilitates additional comments. Regardless of format, any well-structured rubric should include three elements:

  • Criteria: consider which elements of expert or competency performance you are asking students to focus on for the assessment.  For example, if you are assessing a student on their grammar and spelling, one of your criteria should focus on students’ ability to structure sentences and their editing ability. If you are assessing students’ group or individual case study presentations, consider assessing their ability to integrate or apply course content to the case effectively. Your assessment criteria should be structured around your course level learning outcomes to ensure that you are adhering to course alignment principles. Generally, rubrics focus on 4-6 criteria to evaluate the most essential components of an assessment.

  • Quality Levels: consider what the scoring weight will be. For example, a Likert scale (i.e., 5 = Excellent, 4 = Very Good, etc.), or an alternative grading scheme comprised of pass/fail structures could be used.  A clearly defined scoring structure will provide students with a breakdown of the essential and important components of an assessment and how to value and focus on different aspects of the assessment. Consider providing examples or parameters, as qualitative descriptors of weighting and scores (e.g., incomplete, barely adequate etc.) may not always be helpful to students for their learning journeys.  
  • Descriptors: provide descriptions for each criterion and for each of the quality levels that you are using. These descriptions will allow you and the students to differentiate between ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ and ‘poor’. Consider how each of these levels might show up in student work. Clear and distinct descriptions should provide clear differentiation of grade and quality levels. This should allow for more timely return of student work and opportunities for some more focused feedback in efforts to develop your students’ work forward.  Be sure to leave space for additional comments toward the end to provide specific feedback to students.

Rubric templates are available in MyLearningSpace to help to integrate rubrics with your gradebook and discussion forums. Laurier instructors can get further support for setting up rubrics in MyLearningSpace by contacting

Sharing and refining your rubrics with colleagues can help ‘test drive’ rubrics, align rubrics across courses and programs, and share ideas of what descriptors or criteria have worked well in similar courses. Online repositories like RCampus contain discipline-specific rubric examples at a variety of levels which can help inform your thinking and provide wording ideas.

Additionally, consider the ways in which Generative AI tools can expedite and simplify the rubric creation process. Generative AI tools can suggest alternate wording for descriptors or criteria and can generate sample assignments to test and refine rubrics. Generative AI tools can even provide an outline for an entire rubric, and pasting the assignment description and learning outcomes into a tool like Microsoft Copilot or ChatGPT and asking it to create a rubric with relevant criteria can be useful to see the assessment through another lens, and even to use the AI-created rubric a starting place for your own.


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Student-led Rubrics

Providing students an opportunity to engage in the assessment process can support them in developing a deeper understanding of the evaluative process (Bacchus et al., 2020). Providing opportunities for student-led or co-created rubric development is a great way to include student-centered pedagogies into your practice by supporting feelings of inclusion and agency over their learning process.

Self-Assessment Rubrics

While with a traditional rubric, the instructor evaluates the student’s work, a self-assessment rubric is a tool that asks the student to evaluate their own performance. A self-evaluation rubric encourages students to think critically and authentically about how they demonstrated the knowledge, skills or values to achieve the outcomes of their assessments. Taking ownership over one’s own assessment can help empower students to better understand themselves, develop self-regulation and understanding of their capacities and the ways in which their learning fits together.

Peer evaluation Rubrics

When asking students to either work in groups or to watch their classmates deliver presentations, including peer-evaluation allows the entire class the opportunity to improve their own understanding of an assessment, and to provide feedback from more than just the instructor. Peer evaluations also signals to the rest of the class that they need to be present and actively engage in their learning, by listening carefully, and thinking critically about what is being presented instead of passively engaging. Including peer evaluations can support the entire class in deeper learning opportunities and help instructors to see other nuances that they may have missed but that stick out to students in the audience.

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Looking Ahead

Rubrics can be simple or complex, depending on course learning outcomes, assessment design, and instructional goals. Try starting your rubric creation process by deciding on the type, considering the components, generating and iterating on drafts with colleagues, educational developers, or with the hold of generative AI. Rubric design is an iterative process that is continuously refined to meet the needs of each assessment, course offering, and cohort of students.

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