Few will argue against the value of rubrics. Relatively easy to design in both low and high-tech environments, and adaptable to virtually every type of assignment and academic discipline, the ubiquitous tool has helped countless instructors and teaching assistants grade in a more consistent and efficient manner.
They may also offer the same benefits to students when offered early.
A common rubric template divides a whole assignment into its component parts which are evaluated on a defined scale of competencies. This rubric from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh identifies three components—research and design, communication, team work—with additional sub-categories for richer feedback.
Access to rubrics before starting assignments helps ensure students, instructors, and teaching assistants share an open understanding of requirements, expectations, and levels of performance. This encourages students to take a more serious and disciplined approach to their projects, dedicating extra time to areas they are less competent in and delegating responsibilities more strategically in group work.
As for grading, knowing students are following the rubric makes the process smoother and introduces fewer surprises in submissions. Using the competency scale also allows instructors to identify broader trends across the classroom while providing more formative and personalized feedback to each student.
Rubrics are excellent tools but deliver their full potential when used by everyone—graders and students—in the classroom. Consider providing a copy of your grading rubric with your next assignment; it may make the grading more enjoyable for you and your students.
If you are looking for some starting points in creating rubrics, look at these resources from the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University: Grading and Performance Rubrics.