Achieving Authentic Assessment with Rubrics

Achieving Authentic Assessment with Rubrics

Rubrics are a great way to authentically evaluate student assignments—and track performance and progress. Rubrics make an excellent grading tool because they:

  • Help you set clear expectations and guidelines for your students.
  • Provide students with specific guidance on skill sets that need improvement.
  • Speed up the grading process and make it fair and consistent.
  • Make it easy to explain and justify student grades.
  • You can use rubrics for any assignment, assessment, project, or activity (like participation).

Your rubrics can be specific to each individual assignment, but this can be very time-consuming. You can also create universal rubrics, such as an Essay Rubric with general criteria that you use to score any essay your students write.

Universal rubrics can be beneficial because they allow you and your students to track student progress with the listed criteria over time.

If you haven’t created rubrics before, or if you want to improve your existing rubrics, follow this simple process to get started.

Choose Your Learning Objectives

First, ask yourself what you want to assess. What skills should your students demonstrate on the assignment? Focus? Organization? Strong supporting evidence? Skillful use of conventions? Creativity? Effort?

You can also list different components of the assignment, such as a thesis statement, introduction, and conclusion.

It’s most effective if you can come up with 5-7 objectives to list on the rubric. These categories are used to label the rows listed on your rubric, as seen in the example below.

Determine Your Scale and/or Levels

Next, choose what scale or levels of mastery you will use to assess your students.

Examples (from the lowest level to highest) include:

  • 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Needs Improvement, Satisfactory, Good, Excellent
  • Poor, Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent
  • Unacceptable/Incomplete, Below Expectations, Meets Expectations, Exceeds Expectations
  • Beginning, Developing, Accomplished, Exemplary

Generally, you should have 3-5 levels listed on your rubric, but you can include more if needed. You will use your levels to label the columns at the top of your rubric, where the 4 and 3 are shown in the example above.

On your rubric, you can list your levels in either descending or ascending order. It’s up to you, but it will likely be most helpful for your students if you label your rubrics consistently.

Write Meaningful Descriptions

The last step is to write descriptions for each criterion at each level of the scale. These descriptions will tell your students, for example, what a “4” looks like for a category such as “Focus.”

When writing your descriptions, make sure they’re student-friendly. Avoid educational jargon that will be meaningless to your students. You want them to comprehend exactly what you expect of them and how well they ultimately perform in each category.

Your category descriptions will look something like this:

Depending on the age of your students, asking them to help you generate these descriptions can be very effective. It gets students thinking about what an exemplary or less than satisfactory product might look like, and it ensures that they will fully understand your requirements.

Other Tips for Creating and Using Rubrics

  • Before introducing the rubric to your class, make sure it works. Will the best assignments truly get the best grades? You may want to test the rubric on previous student work or sample papers.
  • In the middle levels, briefly explain what’s missing. What sets these good or average papers apart from the excellent ones?
  • Refer to the rubric frequently for best results. Let students help you generate the rubric, and provide the completed rubric to students the day you assign the task. Discuss the rubric as a class, let students use the rubric for peer review before they turn it in (or evaluate themselves using the rubric), etc.
  • Generate rubrics quickly using sites like Rubistar. Rubistar helps you build rubrics and also has a massive library of already created rubrics that can be used or adapted for your own class.


Rubrics are an excellent tool for grading and providing feedback to your students, and creating them is a fairly simple process:

  • Choose 5-7 objectives or categories you want to assess, and use them to label your rows.
  • Label your columns with 3-5 levels of mastery. These can be numbers or descriptions.
  • Describe what each criterion looks like at each level using student-friendly language.

Using rubrics with your students helps you clearly communicate your expectations and gives them specific feedback about their achievement and progress.

WriteLab brings together Natural Language Processing, Artificial Intelligence, and English Language Instruction. Student writing is analyzed in seconds with the WriteLab app—giving students feedback and suggestions on how to revise and polish their draft.

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