Rubrics Demystified – Writing measurable criteria and standards


Criterion-referenced Assessment and Rubrics

Extract from Issue#34 of Teaching Tuesdays@CSU

All issues of Teaching Tuesdays can be accessed through the folder at this link

By: Deborah Murdoch, CSU

A few things to remember as you develop your criteria and standards.

  • There are a few different formats you can use when putting together the information, including: a table, commonly called a rubric; a combined list of criteria with a table of standards; a list format. For more information look for Formats for marking criteria and standards on the Division of Learning and Teaching website or the CSU Subject Outline Tool help.
  • Rubricsare a great way of communicating to students exactly what you are looking for in the levels of skills and application of knowledge in the context or professional practice you are assessing.
  • Rubrics are about clearly communicating the minimum level of what you are asking for in your assessment task for each of the passing grades. They are not intended to be limiting at the highest level. A fail column can be included if want to clearly spell out to students what they are still to achieve.
  • Rubrics can be an excellent form of feedback to provide guidance for the next task in your subject. The use of highlighting or commenting on what students achieve in relation to the standards in the rubric is a fast and efficient method of communication.

Writing criteria

For each of the outcomes you plan to meet with the task:

  • First, analyse the skills you are assessing in your assessment tasks. These are the actions students will take with their knowledge of content in the task and should relate directly to subject learning outcomes. This is what students will express or demonstrate in their responses to the task.
  • Then, analyse what the content or knowledge area is you are assessing.
  • And then, think about how students might apply that to practice.

Once you have these three things straight, you are ready to write your criteria.


BONUS TIP: The skills and knowledge remain the same, regardless of the format, type or method of your assessment. They are what you are assessing each time you meet the chosen outcomes. So, you could ask for responses in a number of different assessment types in different sessions but the skills and knowledge for the task would remain the same in relation to the learning outcomes being assessed.


A criterion is a principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided (Oxford English Dictionaries, 2018), so the criteria tell students what they will be judged on in their assessment task.

To write criteria:

Firstly, formulate the identified action, knowledge and context into a statement.

This statement should describe the end result of what the outcome is asking for.

For example, the statement “Design a spreadsheet that will record accurate information about given transactions and write a report for management explaining the results of the calculations”

will describe the outcome “develop digital skills using electronic spreadsheets to record and report on financial transactions.”

Next, return to your analysis of the learning outcome.

In our example, the skill is for students to develop digital skills using electronic spreadsheets. What does that mean for skill development?

That students can

  1. create a spreadsheet in a digital format.
  2. enter data in a spreadsheet using formulas to calculate results.
  3. analyse the data from a spreadsheet.
  4. write a report explaining the data to a particular audience.

So, there are four skills to be assessed based on this outcome and potentially two reasonable criteria to be created.

Criterion 1: Create a spreadsheet and enter data from a given set of information using formulas to calculate results.

Criterion 2: Analyse and report on the data explaining the data to the manager of your division.

Writing standards

Next, the standards for the criteria to meet the level of the outcomes need to be written. Writing performance standards is probably the most difficult part of writing a rubric (Burton, 2015). The performance standard (or descriptor) tells students the level of quality they will be marked on in their assessment task.

To write the standards:

Firstly, have a look at SOLO taxonomy (Biggs, n.d.) or Revised Bloom’s taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) and decide the PASS level standard that meets your outcome. In the case used here, students need to have digital skills, be able to enter data and use formulas in electronic spreadsheet to calculate the results and analyse and report on data.

So, if we create a rubric (a table form of marking criteria and standards) it might look like this.

It is tough getting the differentiation between the standards but it is best to use terminology based on the taxonomies given in SOLO and Bloom’s rather than using subjective terms such as excellent, well described, some or most. These terms can be ambiguous and open to interpretation by markers and students (Burton, 2015).

The best advice is to work in a team with your markers to collaboratively design the rubric and provide feedback so that a consistent understanding of what is required is developed as you develop the marking rubric. If your markers can understand and moderate using the rubric, you are well on the way for your students to understand and use it to guide their thinking for the assessment task.


Biggs, J. (n.d.). SOLO Taxonomy. Retrieved from John Biggs:

Burton, K. (2015). Continuing my journey on designing and refining criterion-referenced assessment rubrics. Journal of Learning Design, 8(3): 1-13.

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212-219.

Oxford English Dictionaries. (2018). Retrieved from