Setting Clear Expectations with Rubrics

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Weekly Tip: Setting Clear Expectations with Rubrics

A rubric is a coherent set of criteria for students’ work that includes descriptions of levels of performance quality on the criteria.

—Susan M. Brookhart, How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading. ASCD, 2013

Rubrics are an efficient way of setting high expectations for a multitude of different assessments. Here are a few ways you can use rubrics (including but not limited to):

  1. Research Papers
  2. Group discussions (online or in-person)
  3. Presentations
  4. Essays
  5. Participation/Attendance

Why use rubrics?

Saves you time!

Rubrics create a common set of standards for courses involving multiple graders and a common language to provide feedback. Using self and peer evaluation, you are not required to provide feedback for each individual student for every assignment. To save even more time, use the rubric tool in Blackboard.

For myself, using a rubric makes grading easier and to some extent, more objective and consistent. It takes some advance time to develop the rubric, but it pays off when I grade the assignments.

—Michael Cleveland, Human Development, WSU

Provides a common language.

  • Provides guidelines and standards to build a common language across peers, your program, graders in the class, and/or external stakeholders.
  • Increases clarity by providing a precise way of communicating expectations and grading requirements. You will receive less questions about expectations.

I believe using rubrics helps me as a teacher as well as the students. I provide the students the grading rubric before the assignment, so they know what criteria I will use as I read their papers and assign grades. This helps guide their work.

—Michael Cleveland, Human Development, WSU

Provides a detailed connection between the learning outcomes, assessments and feedback.

Rubrics act as a metacognitive tool that helps students recognize what they’re learning and how well they are learning. What does it mean to have successfully grappled with the concepts and issues?

The main point about criteria is that they should be about learning outcomes, not aspects of the task itself.

—Susan M. Brookhart, How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading. ASCD, 2013

Tips for Using Rubrics

  1. Use Blackboard’s rubric tool to expedite grading and feedback.
  2. Provide opportunities for rich and frequent formative feedback. Build capacity for this using rubrics to guide self and peer assessments.
  3. Have the reviewers use the language of the criteria as a guide to formulate feedback.
  4. Have students include completed self and peer assessment rubrics with their assignments (or the first draft).
  5. Reach out to external stakeholders to help determine expectations and/or to be guest reviewers.
  6. Grade the same piece of work together. Discuss discrepancies and come to agreement.
  7. Provide example work with explanations of grade using language of the criteria.


Note: Some information below is outdated. Learn more about Canvas.

Keep an eye on future training and workshops. In particular, we have some Faculty-Led Workshops about communicating expectations and creating rubrics.

Learn more about Creating Impactful Student Experiences.

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.