In education jargon, the word rubric means "an assessment tool for communicating expectations of quality". Rubric originally means "a heading written or printed in red".

Rubrics are supposed to support student self-reflection and self-assessment as well as communication between an assessor and those being assessed. In this new sense, a rubric is a set of criteria and standards typically linked to learning objectives. It is used to assess or communicate about product, performance, or process tasks.

A rubric is an attempt to communicate expectations of quality around a task. In many cases, rubrics are used to delineate consistent criteria for grading. Because the criteria are public, a rubric allows teachers and students alike to evaluate criteria, which can be complex and subjective. A rubric can also provide a basis for self-evaluation, reflection, and peer review. It is aimed at accurate and fair assessment, fostering understanding, and indicating a way to proceed with subsequent learning/teaching. This integration of performance and feedback is called ongoing assessment or formative assessment.

Several common features of rubrics can be distinguished, according to Bernie Dodge and Nancy Pickett:

    focus on measuring a stated objective (performance, behavior, or quality)
    use a range to rate performance
    contain specific performance characteristics arranged in levels indicating the degree to which a standard has been met.

Components of a rubric

Scoring rubrics include one or more dimensions on which performance is rated, definitions and examples that illustrate the attribute(s) being measured, and a rating scale for each dimension. Dimensions are generally referred to as criteria, the rating scale as levels, and definitions as descriptors.

Herman, Backbencher, and Winters distinguish the following elements of a scoring rubric:

    One or more traits or dimensions that serve as the basis for judging the student response
    Definitions and examples to clarify the meaning of each trait or dimension
    A scale of values on which to rate each dimension
    Standards of excellence for specified performance levels accompanied by models or examples of each level

Since the 1980s, many rubrics have been presented in a graphic format, typically as a grid. Studies of rubric effectiveness now consider the efficiency of a grid over, say, a text-based list of criteria.

Steps to create a rubric
Rubrics may help students become thoughtful evaluators of their own and others’ work and may reduce the amount of time teachers spend evaluating student work. Here is a seven-step method to creating and using a rubric for writing assignments:

    Have students look at models of good versus “not-so-good” work. A teacher could provide sample assignments of variable quality for students to review.
    List the criteria to be used in the rubric and allow for discussion of what counts as quality work. Asking for student feedback during the creation of the list also allows the teacher to assess the students’ overall writing experiences.
    Articulate gradations of quality. These hierarchical categories should concisely describe the levels of quality (ranging from bad to good). They can be based on the discussion of the good versus not-so-good work samples. Using a conservative number of gradations keeps the rubric user-friendly while allowing for fluctuations that exist within the average range (“Creating Rubrics").
    Practice on models. Students can test the rubrics on sample assignments provided by the instructor. This practice can build students’ confidence by teaching them how the instructor would use the rubric on their papers. It can also aid student/teacher agreement on the reliability of the rubric.
    Ask for self and peer-assessment.
    Revise the work on the basis of that feedback. As students are working on their assignment, they can be stopped occasionally to do a self-assessment and then give and receive evaluations from their peers. Revisions should be based on the feedback they receive.
    Use teacher assessment, which means using the same rubric the students used to assess their work.

Root: Red, red ochre, red ink. Usage: Rubric refers to decorative text or instructions in medieval documents that were penned in red ink. In modern education circles, rubrics have recently (and misleadingly) come to refer to an assessment tool.

One problem with rubrics is that each level of fulfillment encompasses a wide range of marks. For example, if two students both receive a 'level four' mark on the Ontario system, one might receive an 80% and the other 100%.

In addition, a small change in rubric evaluation caused by a small mistake may lead to an unnecessarily large change in numerical grade. Both of these problems may be alleviated by the use of finer gradations in rubric evaluations.

Rubrics may also make marking schemes more complicated for students. First, showing one mark may be inaccurate, as receiving a perfect score in one section may not be very significant in the long run if that specific strand is not weighted heavily. Some may also find it difficult to comprehend an assignment having four distinct marks, and therefore it is unsuitable for some younger children. Nonetheless, it allows students to compensate for a lack of ability in one strand by improving another one. For instance, if a student has difficulty communicating her ideas, she may still be able to attain a relatively high mark, because communication is typically not weighted heavily. Rubrics may also allow students to improve their weaknesses.

Another advantage of a grading rubric is that it clearly shows what criteria must be met for a student to demonstrate quality on a product, process, or performance task.