Creating Effective Rubrics

Wendy and Ann have often worked together on rubrics sent to them by instructors. Today they’d like to discuss the importance of effective rubrics and walk you through the process of creating one that visually communicates your expectations. Ann’s going to start by discussing the importance of rubrics.

Why Are Rubrics Important?

In my post about learner to learner feedback, I mentioned that instructors can provide relational and relevant feedback to their students through creating effective rubrics.

Rubrics can be used to provide feedback and also as a road map for your students as they complete their assignments and projects. University of Wisconsin-River professor Alice Darling, observes that “it is incredibly important to give students guidelines for what is expected of them” (2016). She goes on to discuss how effective rubrics allow instructors to communicate their expectations, provide transparency and consistency, and facilitate peer-assessment and self-assessment (Darling, 2016).

In addition, Darling (2016) and the writers at Peergrade (2016a, 2016b) observe that effective rubrics can be a means of:

  • Enhancing Learning- Effective rubrics can enhance student learning by providing consistency in the way instructors grade students’ assignments.
  • Improving Learning- When instructors use effective rubrics as a way to help students reflect, analyze and improve their work, it creates a feed forward mentality.
  • Communicating with Students- When instructors use effective rubrics as a means of communicating their expectations with their students, it leads to transparency in grading.

Effective rubrics are not only a means for instructors to communicate with and provide their students with feedback, but they also allow students to give each other feedback. As I mentioned in my learner to learner feedback post, when your students provide each other with feedback, it’s an invaluable experience that benefits them both in and out of class.

Creating Your Own Effective Rubric

In their article, Middlesex University lecturers Cox, Morrison, and Brathwaite (2015) assert that “A rubric is only as good as its design, support and explanation in its use and, conversely, the expectations from the use of the rubric should enhance the learning outcomes for the students.”

Similarly, in their article, Tips and Tricks for Creating a Perfect Rubric (2016a), the writers of Peergrade discuss three important characteristics of an effective rubric, including:

  • Specific- Give your students specifics about the criteria and the learning expectations for assignments.
  • Consistency- Keep the grading scales the same or similar throughout the rubric. Even better, keep the scales the same throughout the course.
  • Clear- Keep your students in mind as you create your rubrics. The language you use should be clear and student-friendly. This includes keeping grading scales to under five categories so you don’t overwhelm your students.

Now with that background, Wendy will discuss what you should keep in mind as you create your own effective rubrics:

Let’s take a look at a sparse rubric using the very basic requirements for a speech.

Basic rubric includes criteria titles Introduction, Body, Delivery, Visual Aids with points possible.

This rubric breaks down each element in a speech. However, it’s not specific. This makes it hard to understand what earns the full points and what doesn’t quite make the mark.

So, let’s add a description of the criteria.

Rubric briefly describes each of criteria and includes points possible.

Now, we understand what the instructor expects for each element. However, the lack of accessible elements in the design of the table makes it a little unclear. If we use some of the table design tips that I shared in a previous post, we can clean this up a little.

Rubric clearly describes each criteria and includes points possible. Each criteria description includes a bullet list written with plain language. Table built using Word's accessible headings and includes contrasting color rows.

In this case, I not only used the design tools in Word to create a visually-friendly rubric, but I also broke up the sentences in each criterion for readability.

The new table includes the same content, but the contrasting rows, bullet lists, and white space make it easier to read and, therefore, less overwhelming.

It takes a little time in the beginning to write up your content and design a visually-friendly rubric, but it will save time (and explaining) in the end when your students clearly understand what the assignment requires of them.

What are some examples of effective rubrics you’ve seen, created, and/or implemented in your courses? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!


Cox, G. C., Morrison, J., & Brathwaite, B. (2015). The rubric: An assessment tool to guide students and markers. ResearchGate, (June), 26-32. Retrieved from

Darling, A. (2016). Enhance student learning through the use of rubrics. Journal on Best Teaching Practices, 3(5-6). Retrieved from

Peergrade. (2016a, July 25). Tips and tricks for creating a perfect rubric. Retrieved from A Medium Corporation website:

Peergrade. (2016b, August 8). Why are rubrics so important? Retrieved from A Medium Corporation website:

Author: Ann Broda, Instructional Designer

Ann is pursuing her PhD in Communication through Regent University and also teaches speech online at Olivet Nazarene University. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and friends, participating in theatre, drinking coffee, biking, traveling, and reading.

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