The three-step rubric

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Effective rubrics provide clear criteria and an equally clear means of measuring performance. My best rubrics took hours to construct, yet student projects always seemed to fall short of what I envisioned. The Three Step Rubric changed that.

The right assessment tool stimulates conversation
via: learning

Together, the three steps ensure quality work and feedback. First, students create the rubric. Secondly, each student self-assesses, and finally, the teacher assesses the assignment. A peer-editing step can also be added.

Creating the Rubric

As a class or in student groups, use the following questions to guide the creation of the rubric:

  1. What should the assignment include?
  2. What will be assessed?
  3. How will the assignment align with standards?
  4. How will we measure your (student) achievement?

Admittedly, I’m a big fan of using a 4-point rubric (Exceeds, Proficient, Approaching, Needs Improvement). Because of student choice, sometimes a project doesn’t fit into the confines of the rubric. When this occurs, spend time collaborating and discussing with the student how he/she can create an individual rubric.

Student Self-Assessments

After completing the assessment, students use the rubric to evaluate themselves. They must justify and explain their ratings for each category. You’ll find the students to be very accurate with their own evaluations—often even grading themselves more harshly than you would.

Teacher Assessment

After they’ve completed their self-evaluation, it’s the teacher’s turn to provide feedback. Instead of making comments on all parts of the assessment and rubric, only comment where differences between the student grade and your grade exist (this is a great time saver!) This process enables teachers to more intently focus their time on areas where disagreement exists and where feedback is most important.


  • Setting their own goals helps students get started. It helps them organize and the focus on the task. Students visualize. This is what the assignment is supposed to look like.
  • Students focus on important components and standards.
  • They can explain and see why the information or skill is relevant.
  • By allowing student choice, motivation increases.
  • Rubrics can be personalized, increasing creativity.
  • Students are able to accurately evaluate the quality of their work, which enables them to discover ways to improve their performance.
  • Students and teacher work side-by-side, making the feedback more meaningful.

The Three Step Rubric actively engages students in their own learning. By monitoring and reflecting on their work, they assume more responsibility for their learning.

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Reed Gillespie

Reed is a longtime educator and coach, who is passionate about progressive learning and 21st-century assessment practices. Read more of his work here. "I'm a co-moderator of #VAchat, a Twitter conversation for Virginia (and non-Virginian) educators that meets Monday's at 8 ET. Most importantly, I'm a father of four wonderful children and a couple grandchildren. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, sports and, of course, spending time with family."

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