In the previous article, we went into the nitty-gritty of rubrics, why we use them, the shift from teacher-centered to a student-centered approach, and the different types of rubrics and their ideal use cases. Now we are going to dive into methods for creating quality rubrics that can help meet these criteria.
Before we really dive into the methods, it can be helpful to go over the common misconceptions surrounding rubrics, so we can avoid them :
Approaching the creation of rubrics for courses or assignments can be intimidating and can vary depending on the type of rubric you choose to use. Regardless of the chosen rubric, most processes can be boiled down to similar elements :
To help explore this process we’ll dive into some different approaches, this is by no means an exhaustive list but does provide a good starting point.
First, we’ll consider the adaptation of already existing rubrics, and then dive into how we can create rubrics from scratch, specifically using the bottom-up approach.
Time is precious and understanding the key components of rubrics, and what constitutes a good rubric in different scenarios can be helpful in recognizing good rubrics that can be adapted for your teaching. The approach sometimes called Adopt and Adapt, literally means adopt a rubric you found online, or that was shared by your colleagues, and adapt it to your teaching context.
If you find a rubric, say for a research paper, then there are a few steps you can take to best adapt it to your and your student’s needs.
In general, the process of adapting rubrics should be iterative over time. This means it is helpful and important to monitor how students are progressing over time, and how performance levels are changing. In this way, rubrics can be kept reliable and useful.
Ragaputhi and Lee suggest in their book chapter on rubrics, that a good starting place to test the adapt and adopt approach could be the VALUE rubrics provided by the American Association of Universities and Colleges.
Constructing a rubric from scratch can be a tough process. In their book on educational assessment Anthony Nitko and Susan Brookhart outline two valuable methods that can help scaffold the process of constructing rubrics to facilitate positive outcomes, these are called the top-down approach and bottom-up approach. In this case, we’ll focus on the bottom-up approach, but know that the top-down approach may be a good fit if instructors know what skills the course requires students to develop, and what levels of performance of these skills determine success. You can read more about this approach in the book linked above.
The bottom-up approach is an inductive process, which begins by sampling student work and using them to create a framework for assessment. This is best to use when still defining the descriptions of content and performance, or when you intend to involve students in defining their own criteria. The process is as follows:
In our previous article on rubrics, we highlighted that there are two main components to rubrics, the criteria and the description of success across levels for each criterion. No matter the type of rubric, they will at least include some form of these two components. So to ensure the success of the rubrics that we formulate, whether that be adapting or constructing from scratch, understanding what makes up good criteria and performance level descriptions is key.
Susan Brookhart provides us with a good list of recommendations for good criteria and performance level descriptions in her book on rubrics for formative education and assessment.
Let’s start with the criteria. They should be :
With the criteria established, the next part is to write the descriptions of performance. When starting off the descriptions, you can ask yourself “what does student performance on this criterion look like ranging from high to low?”  These levels should be on a continuum, and it’s important that the differences between these levels can be described precisely.
The descriptions of performance should be:
Creating rubrics is no easy task, from deciding which type of rubric to use, to deciding on the relevant criteria, and describing the levels of performance from high to low on each of the criteria.
From this article we hope to have made you aware of the most common misconceptions about rubrics, and how we can avoid those by scaffolding the rubric creation process, through adopting and adapting, or even by constructing the whole rubric from scratch, through the bottom-up approach.
With the continued use of effective rubrics, we can help students start to notice recurring patterns in their learning, including strengths and more troublesome areas. And through this reflection and monitoring of learning, we encourage students to become active participants in their learning.
For further ideas and resources on how to deliver effective feedback and generate a worthwhile learning experience for your students, check out our latest ebook - Feedback for learning: A comprehensive guide.
 Brookhart, S. M. (2013). How to create and use rubrics for formative assessment and grading. ASCD.
 Ragupathi, K., & Lee, A. (2020). Beyond fairness and consistency in grading: The Role of Rubrics in Higher Education. In Diversity and inclusion in global higher education (pp. 73-95). Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.
 Nitko, A. J., & Brookhart, S. M. (2011). Educational assessment of students (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson
 Nicol, D. (2010). From monologue to dialogue: improving written feedback processes in mass higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(5), 501-517.