Designing rubrics

Designing proper rubrics takes a lot of time, but it is worth the investment. A clear rubric saves a lot of time when assessing. It also gives the students more insight into what is expected of them. The step-by-step plan described below will help you create a rubric as effectively as possible. 


  1. Designing a rubric

    A rubric is designed like a table. The rows have the assessment criteria, and the columns have the levels/scores.The fields are filled with descriptions of an accomplishment on a certain level of the criterion.

    • A rubric is the size of one to two A4 papers at most. 
    • Make sure that you are sufficiently specific, but not too detailed:
      • Limit the assessment criteria/rows.
      • Do not use enumerations in the cells.
      • Describe qualities and not quantities.


  2. Step 1: Collect a team of involved people to help.

    • Think about fellow lecturers, students, educational development staff, assessment experts, and examiners.
  3. Step 2: Find out whether there is an existing rubric you can use as an example.

  4. Step 3: Determine the goals of the course.

    • Formulate the relation between your course and the programme’s final qualifications. 
    • Evaluate whether the learning objectives are properly formulated.
    • Find out whether any assessment criteria and/or instructions already exist.
  5. Step 4: Determine the criteria.

    • Determine how you will see when and at what level the student has achieved a certain learning objective. 
    • Combine the criteria until you have a feasible amount.
    • Put the criteria into keywords.
  6. Step 5: Set the norm.

    • Determine what a barely-passing performance looks like for each criterium. 
    • Describe these performances in one or two sentences until you have a column of descriptors. 
  7. Step 6: Determine what is insufficient and what is good (as well as other scores).

    • Describe these descriptors just like you did with the norm (avoid references such as ‘better than…’).
    • Check whether the descriptors are sufficiently distinctive from one another.
  8. Step 7: Consider borderline cases.

    • Determine when a performance would be so bad that it would be worse than severely unsatisfactory or when it would be so good it would be excellent. This probably happens so little it would not be worth it to add these cases to the rubric.
    • Do describe how you deal with these borderline cases - for example what score you would assign for excellent performances of what would be deducted for really poor ones. 
  9. Step 8: Determine the weight and assessment method.

    • Decide if all criteria should be equally important, or add a weighing if necessary. 
    • Make clear how you calculate the final score and how you determine the final assessment.
  10. Step 9: Check your work frequently.

    • For every step, check whether you see any unclarities. 
    • When necessary, make changes to your goals or descriptors to make sure that they match.
  11. Step 10: Make the rubric as short and clear as possible.

    • Try to make it fit onto a single A4 paper. 
    • Summarise descriptors and leave room for interpretation.
  12. Step 11: Test your rubric.

    • Let people outside of the team practice with the rubric. Observe how they apply the rubric and ask for responses. 
    • Alter your rubric if necessary.
  13. Step 12: Continue to develop your rubric.

    • A rubric is never completely finished. Evaluate the rubric at the end of the year and make changes if necessary.
An example of how a rubric might be designed.
An example of what a rubric for an essay might look like.