It was an exciting day when the three rubrics for BSN4416 were finally finalised. Several discussions with students occurred over the first few weeks of the course. Hopefully, the ability to influence the course gave them a sense of agency in their learning. It surprised me how valuable this process was. Yes, it was time-consuming. I argue that it was worth it – Read on.

You can watch the recorded parts of the process here if you want to see how the class discussions unfolded (please forgive the audio quality on some of the recordings). It took until approximately September 21 to get the rubrics finalised, which may seem to be a long time to go without rubrics. I am accustomed to having detailed rubrics completed before day one of a course.  However, discussing the rubric criteria hopefully means students understand the expectations in more depth.

A Starting Point

Instead, we started on September 7th with a general description of each of the evaluations, an outline of what a rubric should look like (click here), an invitation for students to complete a brainstorming survey, blog or contribute directly to a Google document with a blank table (see learning activity 1). Starting with a blank slate was a little uncomfortable for both me and the students because it was unfamiliar – I wasn’t sure how it would go. We continued in week two with the same options but started talking through the actual creation of the rubric with live session discussions. Students also added their ideas directly to the documents. In the live sessions, they could see how I was reacting to their ideas, collapsing ideas and analysing their input. They may have been surprised that I did not tell them what to do. While I could not see their faces it seemed like they were unsure just how much control I was giving them over the course expectations at the beginning.

Refining Ideas

Students came up with a lot of good ideas (click here for a previous blog). As I mentioned previously, students seemed to think I wanted a lot more work out of them than I had envisioned. I had to tell students on a few occasions that they had great ideas but needed to keep their workload manageable. The process of creating the rubric with students was helpful for setting clear co-created course expectations.

geralt / Pixabay

Originally the project plan assignment had a component that was quite misunderstood and caused a lot of stress for my students. Without going through the process of creating rubrics with the students I may not have known that my vision of a one-page rough outline of their project was being interpreted as a huge eight-page thing they had done in their third year. On September 20 I simply changed the wording of that component, which decreased their stress and will hopefully mean I get what I had visioned. Student confusion was, in my estimation, decreased by the co-creation of rubrics.


There was a lot of off-screen work on my part in analyzing the responses. It felt like I was doing a research study. However, it was incredibly valuable for me. I would definitely do it again. I am excited to say that these three rubrics are likely the most rigorous ones I have ever helped to develop. Not only are the expectations clear, but I anticipate good inter-rater reliability (that is just a guess at this point if you are reading this Sidney).

Input Needed

The rubrics were a collaborative effort and I also need to thank several team members from the Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub at Cambrian College for reviewing the almost-final version of the rubric and providing input on valuable refinements. It feels really good to have facilitated this process. If I can manage to find the time I may be able to write this up more formally (you know with all the literature supporting the process).


All three rubrics have the same set-up. The success criteria are right beside the top level of expectations (thanks Mel!). The first table is for evaluating content specific to that assessment. The second one is for evaluating how that content is presented. This course offers students the opportunity to communicate their learning in a way consistent with universal design for learning. Students can choose multiple ways of representing their learning. Sadly I could not get all of the project plan rubric on one page, but I will need to live with that. Ideally, all the content criteria would have been on one page.


Once the rubrics were finalised students were involved in a discussion of authourship (which probably would have been best to do first so I did not need to chase contributors down to see if they wanted to be named). Each rubric contains a license statement following this model:

This rubric was created by [insert contributor names] (alphabetical) and other members of the Fall 2018 BSN4416 class lead by Laura Killam. Reviewed by members of the Cambrian Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub.

Then, I briefly discussed licensing options for both the content they produce in the course and the rubrics and referred them to this page if they were interested in more information. They did not seem opinionated about what type of licence to use so I suggested that we consider an open license and reached out to students who were involved in rubric development to ask their opinion. We ended up using a CC-BY license on the content.


The Final Products:

Oh, did you want to see the rubrics?


9X9X25 Challenge

Extenders, please accept this post as number five (I lost count) in the Ontario extend challenge below (click here for more of my entries). I would have blogged this anyway, but now maybe more people will read it. Do you want to join the challenge? 


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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