Step Away from that Red Pen: Self-Rubrics and Self-Grading



Having students create their own project rubrics and then having them co-grade them with you will result in better work and a stronger sense of ownership. In “Benefits of a Student Self-Grading Models” by Dr. Maryellen Weimer, she reiterates this idea, “Given student motivation to get grades and the prevalence of cheating, most faculty would never seriously consider letting students grade their own work. However, self-grading, especially of homework, does accrue some significant benefits. It can move students away from doing homework for points to making them more aware of why and how doing problems helps them learn. If students grade their own work, they see exactly where they are making mistakes.”

Invention and implementation are often a result of a need, and my experience with invention, self-grading, and self-rubrics was no different.

A Call for The Need

A family history video project was assigned in my class. It soon became apparent that each child’s project was going to be unique beyond the information, but also in the parameters of grading. Some students could not go back and find information on the required five generations, and others could go as far back as the Civil War. In addition, some children had missing information on a parent or simply had only one parent. I did not want those children to feel inadequate in the least because of this project.

Because each project would be different, each rubric would be different and who better to create it and then help me grade it, than the student who created the project.

The Benefits

Students were asked to make a rubric unique to their situation. They had 100 points to distribute among their categories. They were required to have at least eight sectors and the total value had to equal 100 points. Two components were required: information on themselves and a family connection to history. These arenas were required because it was a given that the students would be equipped with the knowledge to complete these arenas.

  • Ownership

The students began to own all aspects of the video. They actually complained at first and I had separation anxiety. But as recorded in Students Grading Themselves with Rubrics, “With self-grading, each student will have to think critically about their work before giving themselves check marks… Regular use of the self-grading rubric system can help students improve their writing and learn to target their projects toward your expectations. Your class will have fun playing the teacher and grading their own papers too. Using a self-grading system with rubrics is really a win-win situation. “

  • Life Lesson

It is a life lesson to be able to recognize your own flaws. For example, I know I am stubborn, lean towards self-righteousness, and tend to get too passionate about my own agendas. I also have been known to take on too many projects at one time. I know my weaknesses. Some businesses and schools are moving from administrator driven evaluations to self-evaluations for these same reasons.

A student can look at a project and note if t has only two photos when six were required. In my case, the kids were told to fill the empty spaces with new information on a different field. For example, the photo category, if the child had none, could be replaced with art from the child’s culture or a famous people in the family category. The student will recognize where replacements are needed and also where the sections are still weak even after a replacement occurs.

The bottom line is that a child can view the end product and clearly indicate where it is weak. Sehar Siddiqui in “Recognizing Flaws Just as Important as Embracing Them” the author hits the nail on the head, “True flaws are trickier because they’re the ones that can inhibit us from success. This is why most of us don’t like admitting to, thinking about or even considering we have a flaw that is deeper than something that shows purely on the surface level. What’s even harder than realizing and admitting our flaws by ourselves is accepting the criticism when we hear it from someone else. Flaws and criticism go hand-in-hand: Chances are if you’re talking about flaws, you’re going to talk about the criticism you received about them, too. “

By implementing self-rubrics and self-grading, you are teaching a beautiful life skill. It is not always easy to admit your flaws, but doing so is a life skill. You have flaws, the project may have flaws, and they can recognize this and note in on the rubric.


You have to put much time into this project before you can present it. You also have to know what will be required and what you can let go of without having a meltdown. Then you have to sit back, close your mouth, and watch the learning happen. Teachers are not prone to letting go or shutting up.

You will need a disclaimer to cover that one child who will mark his project 100% without justifying the grade. My rule was that each mark given had to have a short comment as to why that score was assigned. And I reserved the right to override any rubrics that were not prepared in neither earnest nor true reflections of the work. My last safety net was that I too, would be grading the video, so this evaluation would be co-scored.

Join Me in 21st Century Teaching Techniques

Our world of teaching is changing, and we are discovering new ways to challenge, educate, and inspire our students. The next time you give a project, let the students create the rubric and self-grade. This process is a win-win maneuver in the classroom. Consider these thoughts from Lead @ UVA, “When you self‐assess, you become an active participant in your own evaluation.  Your involvement enables you to honestly assess your strengths and also the areas you need to improve. “