Involving Students in the Creation of Mastery Levels and Rubrics

When students are involved in defining what mastery look like for a process or a product, chances of buy-in and success increase
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About This Strategy

This strategy will help to engage students in the process of determining what different levels of mastery look like for a product or a process, and even in creating the assessment tools (rubrics) naturally aligning with these criteria of success. When teachers take the time to involve students in this reflection on the front end, it pays off as students have a better understanding of the task at end and feel more invested in it because they were consulted to explore or even create ways they will be assessed at the end.

The strategy includes suggested steps to follow as well as helpful resources that will help you see what it can look like in practice and save you time and energy in creating your own version of this approach.

Implementation Steps

  1. Choose a product or a process you would like to involve your students in determining levels of mastery with you.

    • An example of a product can be a student-created video that summarizes a concept.

    • An example of a process can be effective group work on a given project.

  2. Develop on your own 3-5 criteria of mastery for the product or process selected.  Try to develop a rubric derived from these criteria of mastery. For each criteria determine what would be an exemplary (3), average (2), subpar (1) level of quality. Consult the resource section below to see how to build these rubrics.
  3. If the idea of defining three levels per criterion feels overwhelming, you can also consider the idea of a single point rubric focusing only on the different criteria. (See the “6 Reasons to Try a Single Point Rubric” blog post from Edutopia in the resource section)
  4. At this point of the process start thinking about involving students during the next phase.
    • One option for this next phase could be to focus on helping students explore the criteria of success you defined. In this scenario, you give the rubric to the students and you create an activity allowing them to match student work samples with a level of mastery of a given criterion. This activity works well when students are in groups as small groups discussions allow students to compare and contrast their points of view. At the end of these small group conversations, a whole class summary can help decide on where to place the bar.

    • Another option is to generate a discussion allowing students to brainstorm criteria of mastery before you show them your own. Imagine asking students the question, for example: “What are 5 criteria of effective teamwork?”. This activity works well when students are in small group, with each group presenting their ideas at the end so that the class can synthesize their learnings so as to extract common trends. From then on, the best route is to tell students that you will take their ideas into account, and to present to them later a rubric merging their suggestions and your own criteria of success.

  5. Finally, after students have generated the criteria with you, repeat the process for the levels of mastery of the rubric. Encourage students to work in groups to generate either their own examples of student work or to analyze existing work samples to be able to compare them to the criteria they defined with you.

Coach Tips

Romain Bertrand
BetterLesson Instructional Coach
  • Dare to ask your students how they would define mastery! Do not worry about the gap between what they will say and what you think is right. This gap is always smaller than we think. Students can tell what makes quality work!


  • Collect student work samples at the end of a school year thinking about the upcoming one. Or after each project/unit, try to collect low-medium-high sample. It is best practice to help you assess well, but it will also help you design activities like this one the following year with work samples that will be non threatening to students!


  • If the idea of storing all these samples of student work scare you, go digital and take pictures of these different work samples.


  • Once you involve students in creating these rubrics, the next step is to involve them in self-assessment or peer-assessment to continue to have them at the center of this process.