Adjust your expectations and rethink the rubric

Rubrics show great promise as both a way to communicate expectations and to assess performance. In just a few short years, rubrics have become an essential resource in the race to make higher education more accountable. Can it be long before this unpretentious tool, once confined to k-12 classrooms, finds its way to the workplace? How can we best employ rubrics in the assessment and evaluation of workplace learning and performance?

Figure 1: Analytic rubric

Figure 1: Analytic rubric

Two Types of Rubrics
In its simplest form, a rubric is a document that defines the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria and describing levels of quality (Andrade 2000). The typical rubric is a single-page matrix containing three essential features: evaluation criteria, quality definitions, and a scoring strategy. There are two primary types of rubrics, analytic and holistic. The analytic rubric is used most frequently and lists performance outcomes in the left column with levels of performance listed in the column headings (See Figure 1). In analytic rubrics, each performance outcome is assessed individually while in the holistic rubric, all criteria are listed and applied simultaneously to identify an overall judgment about the work. Regardless of the type of rubric used, all rubrics must have a clear description of criteria for evaluation over a continuum of quality.

Promising Results

Kathy Iverson is a professor and department chair for Roosevelt University's Training and Development graduate program. She teaches organization development, cultural diversity, research methodology, training foundations, consulting, and evaluation.

Kathy Iverson is a professor and department chair for Roosevelt University’s Training and Development graduate program.

In a study of adult students in business courses, the response to rubrics was overwhelmingly positive. Rubrics helped students see the link between learning objectives and outcomes by articulating the expectations of assignments, leading to increased performance (Bolton, 2006). Schneider (2006) also found a positive response to rubrics in higher education, with a caveat. Although 88% of college students found rubrics useful when they received them at the time the assignment was given only 10% of students found rubrics useful when provided after the assignment was graded. When given ahead of time, rubrics help students to clarify the work targets, self-regulate their progress, and make grading transparent and fair, but when shared after the fact, they have little value.

Students are not the only parties that benefit from rubrics In their defining work, Herman, Aschbacher, and Winter (1992) indicated that a carefully constructed scoring rubric will:

  • Help teachers define excellence and plan instruction that will help students achieve it;
  • Communicate to students what constitutes excellence and how to evaluate their own work;
  • Communicate goals and results to parents and others;
  • Help teachers or other raters be accurate, unbiased, and consistent in scoring assignments and projects; and
  • Document procedures used in making important judgments about student work.

So how do we take the rubric to work?
If rubrics support instructional design, link objectives to outcomes, enhance expectations, and increase performance, why are we not using them in workplace learning and performance? Perhaps it’s because they are viewed primarily as an academic tool, found mostly in the k-12 arena, or perhaps trainers, HR professionals, and adult learning experts don’t know how to create rubrics. In any case, it’s time for the rubric to continue its maturation process moving from grammar school to high school, college, and now graduation to the workplace.

Do you think rubrics have a place in the training evaluation? If so, how might the best be used? What are the barriers to the application of rubrics in workplace learning and assessment? How might we overcome them?


Andrade, H. (2000). Using rubrics to promote thinking and learning. Educational Leadership, 57(5), 13-18.
Bolton, F. C. (2006). Rubrics and Adult Learners: Andragogy and Assessment. Assessment Update, 18(3), 5-6.
Herman, J. L., Aschbacher, P. R., & Winters, L. (1992). A practical guide to alternative assessment. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Schneider, F. J. (2006). Rubrics for teacher education in community college. Community College Enterprise, 12(1), 39-55.


  • amandavaughan11

    I think rubrics are a great way to be upfront with expectations. It used to seem they were a “secret tool” that teachers used to grade projects. They are very helpful when given beforehand. Once the goals and expectations are clearly defined, there isn’t a question of what needs to be done!

  • Rubrics are a great tool to use to make sure the most important topics are covered in the content as well as free of grammatical errors. There is a criteria that needs to be met and the rubric acts as a checklist and a list of instruction to insure the objectives and knowledge gained are both being met. I do recall seeing rubrics in my early educational journey however, back then, I did not understand them fully. With repetition, I learned that rubrics are informative and much needed when you have a blank slate and need a guide.

    With the guide to what is expected, the orientation of on boarding can be simplified if rubrics were included. It is simpler when the key elements are broken down in a 3 to 4 part simple form rubric over a very long list of job duties that may not apply to the position.

  • Rubrics are essential in sharing what mastery of a behavior/skill looks like, and informing those that are being assed on what they need to do to obtained that skill. I believe that rubrics should be used in the workplace as ongoing assessments. Essentially when a rubric is used, its purpose to assess if a skill has been meet through work that was shared. Transferring this mindset into the workplace could be essential with performance evaluation or even as a tool provided after a training when employees are being asked to implement a new behavior. The rubric will show the employees what they need to do to have “mastery”.
    Rubrics are used in the education field on a professional level when teachers are being evaluated. They are often just when administration comes in to observe a lesson being taught. The teacher is then scored on many things (engagement, activities, assessment tools, knowledge of content) out of score of 4 detailing their level of mastery. Unlike a rubric given to students for an assignment that is not looked at again after a grade was given, rubrics in the work place can be used after the evaluation. This will outline where people are currently, their areas of need, and what they need to do to grow. Rubrics should also be shared with those that are being evaluated far before they are assed.

  • I did not hear of the rubric until I was in graduate school. In my undergrad, I was in art college. During one of our final, Prof. asked students to write an essay on some subject (I do not remember the subject), but it totally depended on someone’s interpretation. I wrote an 8-page essay in 2 hours. I received C as a final grade. There was no rubric, and we could not dispute our grades.
    Additionally, we had a bell curve grading method of assigning grades. The instructor can decide what grade occupies the center of the distribution. It is possible to get B and fail or get a D and pass. I am not sure how the bell curve stands with the rubric?
    When using rubrics at the workplace, employees understand what is expected from them and what is necessary for employees to achieve a promotion/raise/bonus.

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