Take a look at the sample rubric borrowed from From “Optimizing Faculty Use of Writing as a Learning Tool in Geoscience Education” by Jon A. Leydens and Paul Santi, in press at The Journal of Geoscience Education.
Its most successful feature is the careful distinction in the evaluative range running across the table for each criterion. A student receiving this rubric with his or her paper would be able to tell pretty quickly which criteria needed more attention or where the student can best spend time on a subsequent paper. What the rubric could do still more clearly is define the criteria themselves more fully. As teachers move from task to task, they may, in fact, want to assess how students demonstrate their understanding of concepts. But a quick update of the rubric for a specific writing assignment could help students see whether the assignment calls for demonstrating understanding of new concepts, linking new concepts with material already covered, extending classwork into independent work, and so on.
Teachers can provide this fuller definition of the key criteria in a more detailed sheet with the assignment itself, or they can cover that material in the classroom. But students will get more out of the feedback on the rubric if teachers remember to give students concrete definitions of key criteria.
1 - Exemplary
2 - Proficient
3 - Apprentice
4 - Novice
Touches on every
important fact related to the topic
Covers the critical facts related to the topic
Covers a majority of facts related to the topic
Contains only some of the obvious facts
analogies, or examples. Applies taught concepts to answer the question.
Steps beyond simple recall and attempts to interpret ideas to better answer the question
Recalls appropriate concepts or examples to address question
Apparent misconception(s) or knowledge gap(s)
multiple topics that apply to the question,
and synthesizes them into a coherent answer
Incorporates multiple concepts to answer the question and demonstrates judgment in applying concepts
Answers the question using several concepts or topics
Answers the question using a single concept or topic
Every idea or conclusion is logically supported by relevant facts. Includes judgment of data reliability.
Every idea or conclusion is logically supported by relevant facts
Relates ideas and conclusions to facts or concepts taught as fact
Opinion and fact not clearly separated. Basis for opinions is unclear at times.
One additional element might also help students. In this rubric, all four criteria seem to be weighted equally. When that's the case, you don't need to provide the weightings. But if you want to shift the emphasis among criteria as you give subsequent assignments or if you simply want to give more weight to a particular criterion, you should reflect that assessment practice on the rubric itself.