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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How Do Rubrics Help?

How students and teachers understand the standards against which work will be measured.
Related Tags: Assessment, Rubrics
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Rubrics are multidimensional sets of scoring guidelines that can be used to provide consistency in evaluating student work. They spell out scoring criteria so that multiple teachers, using the same rubric for a student's essay, for example, would arrive at the same score or grade.

Rubrics are used from the initiation to the completion of a student project. They provide a measurement system for specific tasks and are tailored to each project, so as the projects become more complex, so do the rubrics.

Rubrics are great for students: they let students know what is expected of them, and demystify grades by clearly stating, in age-appropriate vocabulary, the expectations for a project. They also help students see that learning is about gaining specific skills (both in academic subjects and in problem-solving and life skills), and they give students the opportunity to do self-assessment to reflect on the learning process.

Teacher Eeva Reeder says using scoring rubrics "demystifies grades and helps students see that the whole object of schoolwork is attainment and refinement of problem-solving and life skills."

Rubrics also help teachers authentically monitor a student's learning process and develop and revise a lesson plan. They provide a way for a student and a teacher to measure the quality of a body of work. When a student's assessment of his or her work and a teacher's assessment don't agree, they can schedule a conference to let the student explain his or her understanding of the content and justify the method of presentation.

There are two common types of rubrics: team and project rubrics.

Team Rubrics

A team rubric is a guideline that lets each team member know what is expected of him or her. For example, a team rubric contains detailed descriptions for tasks that will be done while the students are working as a team, and states acceptable degrees of behavior. It also defines the consequences for a team member who is not participating, and lists actions or tasks required of each team member for the completion of a successful project, such as the following:

  • Did the person participate in the planning process?
  • How involved was each member?
  • Was the team member's work to the best of his or her ability?
  • Shows the quantitative value of the behaviors or actions.
"For as long as assessment is viewed as something we do 'after' teaching and learning are over, we will fail to greatly improve student performance, regardless of how well or how poorly students are currently taught or motivated." -Grant Wiggins, EdD., president and director of programs, Relearning by Design, Ewing, New Jersey

Project Rubrics

A project rubric lists the requirements for the completion of a project-based-learning lesson. It is usually some sort of presentation: a word-processed document, a poster, a model, a multimedia presentation, or a combination of presentations.

The teacher can create a project rubric, or students can collaborate, helping set goals for the project and suggest how their work should be evaluated. Together, the teacher and the students can answer the following questions:

  • What is the quality of the work?
  • How do you know the content is accurate?
  • How well was the presentation delivered?
  • How well was the presentation designed?
  • What was the main idea?

Sample Rubrics

Look at these rubrics from several websites, which show team rubrics and project rubrics for various subjects and grade levels.

After you've reviewed the sample rubrics, discuss the following:

  • What do you think of the different styles?
  • Do they meet your expectations of rubrics for the designated grade levels? Why, or why not?
  • Which one most closely suits your vision of what you will need? Why?

A recent blog on by Andrew Miller, "Tame the Beast: Tips for Designing and Using Rubrics," has some great advice for how to work with rubrics.

There are many websites that offer free tools to generate your own rubrics, such as Rubistar. For additional rubric ideas and samples, visit the Assessment & Rubric Information page in Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators. The rubric section of the Authentic Assessment Toolbox, by Dr. Jon Mueller of North Central College, is also very thorough, with lots of tools and resources.

You will find additional resources about rubrics in the Resources for Assessment section of this guide.

Continue to the next section of the guide, Workshop Activities.

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Comments (3)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Glenda Hoth's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Assessments are important for the teacher to know what the student has learned and if they are ready to go to the next level. They also let the student know where they are lacking understanding.

Our classrooms are made up of many different types of learners and this site showed that there are assessments for every type learner. I am one that does not believe the standardized test is a fair way to test all students. For the student that freezes at the work "test", a portfolio or an assessment based on their performance may be a better way to assess this student. Especially with our growing population of ESL students we must look at assessments such as observations & interviewing. This site gave good examples that we can use in the classroom.

A Rubric is the great instrument for the instructor and student. The rubric lets the teacher and student know exactly what is expected in each step of the assignment and what each step is worth.It provides the student a visual guide for them to use when completing an assignment. This is a step by step instructional guide for the student to earn the most possible points.

David Pepper MD's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This is a great resource that applies in higher education too. I teach at the Medical School and Residency Levls (Internship and 2+ years after medical school) and many of these ideas are missing from education at our level.

This page lays out in a simple way, the use and formulation of rubrics, and provides to several good examples and links.


David Pepper MD
UCSF and UCD Medical Educaton Programs

Cyd Wright's picture

Hi! I'm an older grad student (age 50). I did my undergrad 15 yrs ago. Rubrics simply didnt exist, back then. I have absolutely no clue how to understand and use the rubrics listed in my classes. I need to learn how, so I can do well in my coursework. Can someone help?
I've just started working on my Master's in Instructional Technology.
I have been a substitute teacher since before I graduated and have noticed that my students (HS) have them, but I have never really studied one, up close, at least w/ out a whole lot of examples, so I dont have anything to go by.

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