skip to main content    
Highline Logo - Link to college home page

    Standards, Outcomes and
        Competencies Committee


Student Learning Outcomes

Assessment Basics

Tools & Resources

People Resources

Newsletter, Minutes, & Reports


Ten-step Process to Building Rubrics

Here is a ten-step tutorial for building rubrics.  Follow the steps as you go, and you will be creating great rubrics in no time at all.

  1. Collect old samples of student work for the performance task you want to assess.
  2. Sort the samples into piles, based on quality. Start with two or three piles and adjust the piles as you sort, so that you eventually end up with four, five, or six piles (depending upon how much variation you see, and what you want your scoring scale to be.)
    • Before drafting language for the rubric, ask yourself a tough question: Is this pile of work really the best that is possible by students of roughly this level of experience? Or might there be far better work out there somewhere? This is a vital issue, because you want your rubric built backward from genuine excellence, not just local norms.

  3. Once you are confident that the pile of “best” work is truly excellent, take the time to analyze what all the various pieces have in common. How would you describe what they do so well? What words capture what they do that the work in the other piles does not? Make a running list of key descriptive phrases.
  4. Group all the answers from your list of phrases into a small number of categories, so as to identify the specific and distinct criteria you will highlight in the rubric (e.g. development of ideas, clarity of expression, well supported, creative display, etc.). You can also work in the other direction: if you are fairly clear on the criteria you want to highlight, (e.g. thoroughness, clarity, accuracy, etc.) group your descriptions under them.
  5. Use this same analysis approach with the piles of lesser quality, working from higher to lower quality. This time, though, you’ll start with your criteria ideas as the categories under which you’ll jot your descriptive phrases. But you may start to find that you have too many descriptive phrases, and that some of the phrases are more concrete and assignment-specific than others. The more assignment-specific phrases may work best as bulleted indicators under a more general set of phrases.
  6. The rubric needs to be written so that each sentence(s) at one level has its counterpart on the other levels of the rubric, in which the same criterion is traced through the rubric. You may find yourself running out of language as you work. When you are struggling for words, just put placeholder language, e.g. “Not as clear as a 4” or “Less organized than a 6”. Eventually you will want to replace such comparative language with descriptive language, but initially such phrasing is fine. The same is true of value words like “Good” or “poor”. Your final rubric must say what “good” and “poor” look like in the concrete. (Why does it need to eventually be changed? If the end user is the student “good” and “poor” is not very helpful as feedback! More descriptive language will help the student know why her/his work is “good” or “poor”).
  7. Make a final decision about how many score points and how many distinct criteria you wish to use, and develop a blank matrix or table (in Word or Excel) based on the decision. Sample rubric.
  8. Fill in the matrix with the draft rubric language. Edit the language as needed to make it maximally descriptive and where the different descriptors have parallelism in the criteria analyzed.
  9. Decide how much you want to weight each criterion in terms of percentage/point value in the overall assessment. Some criteria are more important than others, so assign percentages accordingly.
  10. Try out the rubric and adjust categories/criteria as needed

(taken and adapted from Big Ideas, Volume 1, Issue 2 -

Additional source:  Stevens, Dannelle and Antonia Levi. Introduction to Rubrics: An Assessment Tool to Save Grading Time, Convey Effective Feedback, and Promote Student Learning, Stylus Publishers, 2004.



Last updated: November 02, 2009

Highline logo - link to Highline home page

2400 S. 240th St
Des Moines, WA 98198
(206) 878-3710
TTY/TDD  (206) 870-4853

Back to Top :: Home Page

This web site was developed by and is maintained by Gregory Reinemer and Tarisa Matsumoto-Maxfield.  If you have questions or concerns about the content, please contact us.

To contact the Highline Community College Web Coordinator please email:

Highline Community College Privacy Policy     Public Disclosure