How often have you attempted to grade your students' work only to find that the assessment criteria were vague and the performance behavior was overly subjective? Would you be able to justify the assessment or grade if you had to defend it? The Rubric is an authentic assessment tool which is particularly useful in assessing criteria which are complex and subjective.

Authentic assessment is geared toward assessment methods which correspond as closely as possible to real world experience. It was originally developed in the arts and apprenticeship systems, where assessment has always been based on performance. The instructor observes the student in the process of working on something real, provides feedback, monitors the student's use of the feedback, and adjusts instruction and evaluation accordingly. Authentic assessment takes this principle of evaluating real work into all areas of the curriculum.

The rubric is one authentic assessment tool which is designed to simulate real life activity where students are engaged in solving real-life problems. It is a formative type of assessment because it becomes an ongoing part of the whole teaching and learning process. Students themselves are involved in the assessment process through both peer and self-assessment. As students become familiar with rubrics, they can assist in the rubric design process. This involvement empowers the students and as a result, their learning becomes more focused and self-directed. Authentic assessment, therefore, blurs the lines between teaching, learning, and assessment.

The advantages of using rubrics in assessment are that they:

  • allow assessment to be more objective and consistent
  • focus the teacher to clarify his/her criteria in specific terms
  • clearly show the student how their work will be evaluated and what is expected
  • promote student awareness of about the criteria to use in assessing peer performance
  • provide useful feedback regarding the effectiveness of the instruction
  • provide benchmarks against which to measure and document progress

Rubrics can be created in a variety of forms and levels of complexity, however, they all contain common features which:

  • focus on measuring a stated objective (performance, behavior, or quality)
  • use a range to rate performance
  • contain specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met

In this module you will create your own rubric for assessing student performance regarding a given objective. Articles on the Web and some examples of rubrics will focus your effort and stimulate your creativity.


Study these articles on authentic assessment and the use of rubrics:

The Case for Authentic Assessment ERIC Document ED 328 611

Empowering Students through Negotiable Contracting by Andi Stix, Ed.D. (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Authentic Assessment Overview - Pearson Education Development Group

Look at the following examples of rubrics:

Persuasive Research Report

Essay / Report / Panel Discussion


Music Composition

HyperStudio Stack


Web page WebQuest

Firsthand Biography

Online Newspaper

Use these guidelines to aid you in creating your rubric in the next exercise.


After having read articles on authentic assessment and rubric development and having viewed some examples, you will now have the opportunity to design your own rubric. Follow the process below:

  1. Work with a partner to create your rubric.
  2. Select a student performance you would like to evaluate. Here are some suggestions or you may come up with your own.

    • An oral presentation augmented by a HyperStudio stack
    • A web page showing student research results
    • A play
    • A collaborative project to research a topic and produce a video to convey the information.

  3. Download the rubric template.
  4. Fill in the template with your criteria. Be sure to include the objective or behavior (categories), range/level, and the degree to which it has been met. Write specific descriptions of expected student performance for each level.
  5. Share your completed rubric with another group.

For Further Exploration

Want to know more and do more with rubrics? Here are eight resources you'll find useful.

Web Sites

Rona's Ultimate Teacher Tools

This excellent site contains links to scores of example rubrics in a wide range of content areas.

Rubrics: Inspire your Students and Foster Critical Thinking

This five-part series explores how one teacher designs, refines, and implements rubrics in a variety of subject areas.

TeAch-nology's Rubric Generators
ClassWeb Rubric Builder

These three sites take different approaches to helping the user create rubrics online. One of them is bound to be a good fit for your needs.


Rubricator 3.0

by Strategic Learning Technologies

A cross-platform software tool that allows you to store and organize standards and performance descriptions and print out rubrics in a variety of formats.


Rubrics: A Handbook for Construction and Use

by Germaine L. Taggart, Sandra J. Phifer, Judy A. Nixon and Marilyn Wood. Technomic Publishing.

Explains the uses, importance, and techniques of using rubrics in the classroom, based on extensive collaboration between classroom teachers and university faculty in Kansas.

book cover

The Rubrics Way: Using MI to Assess Understanding

by David Lazear. Zephyr Press.

Makes use of Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory to provide guidelines and examples of rubrics that measure aspects of all eight intelligences.


Rubrics are an effective assessment tool in evaluating student performance in areas which are complex and vague. By involving students in the creation of the rubric, the students take more responsibility for their own learning, are empowered by being involved in the teaching/learning process, and have a clearer idea of what is expected in terms of specific performance. Stakeholders are given clear information about student assessment and instructional objectives. Teachers clarify their goals, expectations, and focus, and even find that their paperwork is reduced because students are a part of the process of assessment development. There is, however, one drawback to the use of rubrics according to Harry Tuttle, a subject area technology integration teacher for the Ithaca City School District; "the students will want to have rubrics for everything they learn!"

This page by Nancy Pickett and Bernie Dodge

Last updated March 17, 2007