Today I started the process of getting students to co-construct rubrics with me. One question faculty ask when they hear about my gradeless plan is if the students have the skill set to make their own rubrics. Here are my preliminary thoughts.

My Experience

At the beginning of our online live session, there were some silences as I asked for their suggestions for the rubric. I used survey responses (there were only 2), the rubric for rubrics and the course objectives for each evaluation component to stimulate discussion. Today’s group was small, but once we got started and they saw me inputting their ideas into the rubrics more suggestions were made.

geralt / Pixabay

By the end of our one-hour session, a rough skeleton of two of our rubrics were created. Today we drafted the participation and ethics rubrics. Tomorrow we have a guest speaker and will focus on the project plan rubric, while possibly refining the rubrics from today. Today’s drafted rubrics are a starting point for the week’s activity, which is to refine the rubrics. Each student can choose which rubric they want to contribute ideas to throughout the week (or they can contribute to all of them). Hopefully, the rubrics will be finalised by this time next week.

How did it go?

After class, I compared the participation rubric to one I used in another course I have taught. The students today identified five success criteria to use: timing (prompted by my probing), quality, evidence, engagement with peers and professional interactions. My rubric’s criteria included: participation timing, responses to peers, professional interaction with peers, critical analysis and scholarly writing. When I compare the beginning definition of these criteria to my rubric the only thing they have not yet added is APA format (which could be under quality).

Next Steps …

Now students need to delineate the difference between unacceptable, acceptable, good and exemplary performance for each of the criteria. As they work to refine measurable criteria in the rubric I am going to remind them about Bloom’s taxonomy. With this tool, and some guidance I am willing to bet that the students can create just as good of a rubric as I can – if not better!

Bloom's Taxonomy

The students are definitely not accustomed to the amount of flexibility in this course. They have told me it is confusing at first. Once I remind them of the skills they have from previous years in the nursing program I can see that they become more confident in taking advantage of the flexibility in this course.

Main Concern

Generally, in discussions with students, the most common issue I have had was that they expect too much of themselves. I often need to remind them that the project and expectations they have of themselves need to be realistic for completing this term while doing their other courses and clinical.


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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