Better Together: How to Co-Construct Rubrics With Your Students

One of my biggest pet peeves used to be writing rubrics and reviewing them with students. After spending hours agonizing over just the right language, we would read through the document together, line after excruciating line. Once the bell rang for dismissal, my frustration and disappointment would quickly set in. Many of my students would leave the rubrics on their desks or the floor as they shuffled out of class. And there I would stand, alone in my room, my text-bloated masterpiece scattered like confetti. I felt pretty exhausted by this cycle, and it made me wonder:

  • How would my students create great work if they didn’t care about the rubric?

  • How can students get involved with the creation of the rubric? I’m tired of writing these by myself!

After having enough of this repeating scenario, I discovered a strategy that shares more ownership: the co-constructed rubric. This approach not only helped me with my rubric irritations, but it also helped shift the culture of my classroom. If you’d like to reshape your rubric approach, the key steps below will serve as a guide to gain clarity around quality while amplifying student voice.

Before we begin, a few suggestions:

  • This process is flexible, so consider how you might personalize and adapt this process to meet the needs of your learners.

  • Be sure to check out the “Rubric Co-Construction in Practice” sections for a real-life example of one teacher using this process. This section aims to provide additional clarity and a visual component to accompany the rubric co-construction process.

  • This blog post comes with some free tools to assist you, so please read to the end for access to them.

Initial Preparation

Before you officially begin the process of co-constructing a rubric with your students, be sure to introduce the project expectations and the associated learning goals. You may also briefly review the major product for which the rubric will be developed. If students have little experience with rubrics, you might consider what type of preparation they’ll need to participate in this process effectively. Once you’ve provided this foundational information, organize students into small learning teams and proceed to the first step.

Step #1: Analyze Sample Products

Provide time for student teams to examine various product samples that represent different levels of quality. As students review and discuss, encourage them to sort the products into the following categories:

  • At Standard: The product includes all of the features that meet the project's learning goals and quality expectations, and only minimal revisions might be needed.

  • Developing: The product includes several features that meet the project's learning goals and quality expectations, but more revisions are needed.

  • Beginning: The product needs a significant amount of revisions to meet the project's learning goals and quality expectations.

Once teams have sorted their samples, facilitate a discussion that allows each team to explain and justify the reasoning behind their rankings.

As you prepare students for this step, consider the following:

  • How will I locate or create sample products that represent a full range of quality for student teams to analyze?