Rubrics: Successfully Communicating Expectations and Standards

by Carolina Staff

Rubrics are not new on the educational front, and their use continues to grow in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary settings. They provide efficient, two-way communication between student and instructor across a broad range of skills and content. They also facilitate assessment between instructor and student, between student peers, and are invaluable as self-assessment tools.

Rubrics can take the form of detailed checklists or open grids for comments. They can be qualitative (nongraded) or quantitative (graded), and they can be custom designed for use with any type of assignment. A brief review of literature addressing the use of rubrics in post-secondary education lends support to using them in science courses.

Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation has found that the use of rubrics has benefits for teachers as well as students. Those include:

  1. The ability to assess consistently
  2. Saving planning and assessment time
  3. Providing effective and timely feedback to students
  4. Clarifying expectations for students
  5. Refining teaching methods based on rubric data

Knowing the benefits of rubrics for you and your students, what are the best practices for implementing rubrics as a teaching and assessment strategy? The University of Florida’s research identifies these practices:

  1. The language used in the rubric should be constructive and positive.
  2. Limit the number of components.
  3. Describe the processes and skills to be observed.
  4. Provide students with a copy of the rubric in advance.

With those tips considered, how are effective rubrics designed? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers advice to its faculty on how to design an effective rubric. The advice includes:

  1. Consider the learning outcomes.
  2. Clearly define assessment criteria.
  3. Create a rating scale.
  4. Fill in descriptors.
  5. Test the rubric prior to using it.

Each university link above offers research and model rubrics for your use. To simplify rubric design and construction, choose online templates that can be customized to match teacher and student needs. AI tools can be used to create general rubrics. Below is a short list of reliable websites that provide customizable templates, some without charge.

Sites that allow you to generate your own rubrics:

Carolina Rubrics

We offer 3 rubrics that you can download. There is a rubric for lab reports, prelab preparation, and presentations of all types.

References, Suggested Readings, and Resources

These short and informative articles can guide you through the assessment process with rubrics.

Andrade, Heidi. Self-Assessment Through Rubrics. Educational Leadership December 1, 2007, Vol. 65: No. 4.

ChemEd X. January 11, 2019. “A ‘Science Reasoning Rubric’ to Support Argumentative Writing.”

 Cornell University Center for Teaching Innovation. n.d. “Using Rubrics.”

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Teaching and Learning. November 22, 2022. “Rubrics: Benefits for Faculty and Students.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Teaching and Learning Lab. n.d. “How to Use Rubrics.”

University of Florida Center for Instructional Technology and Training. n.d. “Creating High Quality Rubrics.”


For additional information visit the Carolina Knowledge Center.

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