Using rubrics helps ensure that all students meet certain criteria in their work.

The term “rubric” is used widely in education. In the classroom, rubric may mean a set of categories, criteria for assessment, and the gradients for presenting and evaluating learning. When grading a student’s essay, for example, a teacher may apply a rubric for its quality of organization, giving a 3 for Advanced Proficient, 2 for Proficient, or a 1 for Partially Proficient. Other criteria that could be rubrics include the use of examples, paragraph structure, grammar, and overall quality.

Yet, like many terms in education, the meaning of rubric is confusing. For example, Wiggins defines a rubric as “one of the basic tools in the assessor’s kit… telling us what elements matter most” (1998, p. 153). Schmoker states that a rubric “simply means a rule or guide … by which students’ performance or product is judged. It nails down the criteria, making them available to schools, teachers, parents, and students and providing clear direction and focus” (2006, pp. 70–71). And Guskey explains that rubrics “are specific guidelines that can be used to describe students’ work in reading, writing, mathematics, and other content areas” (1994, p. 25). The term, apparently, can refer to almost anything: rule, guide, criterion, or description that is used to assess the progress of students in their academic subjects, as well as the grading system for assessing each criterion.

The history of “rubric”

The term rubric has been used in English since the 1400s, making it as old as it is interesting. The root of rubric refers to the color red or red earth. The Oxford English Dictionary gives an example of the term used in 1607: “this marrow of a deer

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