Ask Sarita


Sarita-MathurSarita Mathur is a free-lance education consultant offering services to schools, both rural and urban, in India and abroad. An alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Sarita has a degree in Mathematics, Education and a post-graduate degree in Operations Research. The Mathematics background and her well-honed sense of systems and processes had her institutionalise several long lasting and important changes as Principal of The Shri Ram School placing it firmly on the map as a progressive and leading school of India. Sarita has served as a consultant on the International curriculum of the CBSE and also serves as advisor/consultant to several curriculum companies, schools and start-up ventures.

Q: What is a rubric? I understand it helps a teacher to mark student work. Can you elaborate?

Ans: A rubric is a tool that is used to assess student work. In a rubric, work is assessed on fixed and pre-decided criteria. These criteria can be decided on by the teacher who will be conducting the assessment. A student is graded on each criterion as per a 5 to 1 scale (5 highest, 1 lowest). How a student gets a particular score is described in crisp, descriptive detail e.g. what exactly is expected of a student in order that she gets a 5 on the first parameter? Descriptions are given for the other scores as well i.e. 4, 3 , 2 and 1. These descriptions are called ‘descriptors’.

The descriptors are valuable to the student and teacher alike. They tell the student what they have to do or what their work should reflect and/or display in order that they produce high quality work and hence score the maximum marks possible on that criterion. At the same time they tell the teacher what to look for and how to award marks in a transparent and fair way across all students thereby encouraging and obtaining high quality work among students.

Here is an example of a rubric that has been designed for assessing ‘hand writing development’ in Class 2 students. The teacher has chosen four criteria on which to assess handwriting namely: formation of letters, spacing of letters, slant of letters and neatness. Note, the teacher is using a three–point scale and not a five-point one to decide the level of attainment on each criterion.


Many teachers mistake a rubric for a marking guide or marking scheme. Marking guides are not so specific and descriptive as rubrics. Rubrics are best used for project work, activities or to assess progress of students on development of certain skills over a period of time e.g. essay writing. Marking guides are mostly used for marking tests!

Q: What is the difference between ‘drill’ and ‘practice’? Ans: Drill is specific type of practice.

When a student practices a certain type of task with some but deliberately very little variation for an extended period of time, it is a ‘drill’. Drills are usually used to consolidate skills that have already been acquired. Drills can get progressively tougher.

‘Practice’ involves performing tasks both repeatedly and regularly in order to acquire, improve and remain proficient. The benefits of practice are usually more enduring in nature as compared to the benefit of drills. However drills are useful as they comprise parts that make the whole.

A basketball player is being drilled as his coach asks him to repeatedly do layups with variations in perhaps – line of approach. The player is practising the skill that he has acquired through drill (taking layups) by taking passes, being obstructed as he approaches the basket and shooting.

The simplified examples below highlight the difference.


Q: What should I do to teach my senior students to say ‘good morning’ to me (or their other teachers) when they cross me in the corridor? They just walk by as if they have not seen me. I feel it is disrespectful.

Ans: You are right. Most societies do expect individuals to acknowledge one another’s presence, especially when they are known to each other with a greeting, smile or body gesture. It is civil and an accepted norm. If your students are not wishing you, use a strategy that will work overnight. Don’t wait for them to walk past you, wish them instead with a loud cheerful ‘good morning’ taking their name as you greet.

Try it today. Don’t forget to smile!