Rubric Definition Example Essays

Rubrics offer the teacher an opportunity to evaluate the student's understanding of a scientific topic by levels of performance on certain criteria. A rubric can evaluate the depth, breadth, creativity and conceptual framework of an essay, presentation, skit, poster, project, lab report, portfolio, etc. A rubric may be applied to numerous tasks in the classroom. Rubrics are scoring criteria that are:

  • summative- provide information about a student's knowledge
  • formative- provide information about a student's strengths and weaknesses
  • evaluative- provide ways to create instruction that better fits each student's needs
  • educative- provide students with an understanding of how they learn science

In the classroom, they can make assessment more meaningful, clarify expectations, and yield better feedback. Specifically rubrics are matrixes that define what is expected in a learning situation. For the students, a rubric clarifies the often mysterious grade at the end of a unit, project, paper or presentation by giving insight and direction about what is important about the science activity. There are two predominant types of rubrics; holistic and analytical.

Proficient- 3 points

The student's project has a hypothesis, a procedure, collected data, and analyzed results. The project is thorough and the findings are in agreement with the data collected. There are minor inaccuracies that do not affect the quality of the project.

Adequate- 2 points

The student's project may have a hypothesis, a procedure, collected data, and analyzed results. The project is not as thorough as it could be; there are a few overlooked areas. The project has a few inaccuracies that affect the quality of the project.

Limited- 1 point

The student's project may have a hypothesis, a procedure, collected data, and analyzed results. The project has several inaccuracies that affect the quality of the project.


4 points

3 points

2 points

1 point

Has a plan for Investigation

The plan is thorough

The plan is lacking a few details

The plan is missing major details

The plan is incomplete and limited

Use of Materials

Manages all materials responsibly

Uses the materials responsibly most of the time

Mishandles some of the materials

Does not use materials properly

Collects the Data

Thorough collection

Some of the data

Major portions of the data are missing

The data collection consists of a few points

  • Know the goals for instruction- what are the learning outcomes?
  • Decide on the structure of the rubric- holistic or analytical--what fits best for the task?
  • Determine the levels of performance- are there levels of performance specific to each criteria?
  • Share the rubric with your students-students should have an opportunity to see, discuss or even design the rubric prior to the performance or the science activity.

Adapted from "Design Your Own Rubric" by Julie Luft, Science Scope, February 1997



Clarity of thought, Complete. Shows understanding of all processes, reasonable hypothesis or thoughtful questions, conclusions supportable by data, shows creativity, some graphic representation of data or concepts.


Clarity of thought, shows understanding of major processes, includes good hypothesis or questions, draws acceptable inferences and conclusions, may have graphic representations.

Minor Flaws

Completes the assignment, but explanations may be slightly ambiguous or unclear, may contain some incompleteness, inappropriateness, or unclearness in representation, hypothesis, understanding of processes, or conclusions.

Nearly Satisfactory

Begins successfully, but omits significant parts or fails to complete, may misuse scientific terms, representations may be incorrect or omitted, incorrect or incomplete in analysis, inferences and conclusions.

Fails to complete

Assignment and explanation is unclear, or major flaws in concept mastery, incorrect use of scientific terms, inappropriate or omitted hypothesis.

Unable to begin effectively

Product does not reflect the assignment, does not distinguish what information is needed, restates the question without making an attempt at a solution.

No attempt

Does not begin assignment.

daily entries

regular daily entries

entries 90% of the time

entries 80% of the time

entries less than 80% of the time





use of scientific language

consistent, accurate usage of terms

adequate usage of scientific terms

occasional use with few errors

no terms or frequent errors in usage





application to the real world

able to apply learning

usually finds practical application

occasionally relates to real life skills

no practical application





concept understanding

shows understanding of key concepts

usually demonstrates understanding

inadequately demonstrates understanding

poor understanding of concepts





clarity of thought

well organized

adequate organization

limited organization

poor organization






Map is crystal clear, no isolines touch or cross, no stray pen or pencil marks and overall appearance shows care and attention to detail. Numbers are legible, yet unobtrusive, symbols are unmistakable.

3 points

Map is clear, although signs of carelessness may appear. Isolines do not cross, and stray pencil marks are minimal or mostly erased. Numbers are legible, symbols conform with handout guidelines.

2 points

Map lacks clarity. Isolines are nebulous, extraneous marks litter the page. Numbers are messy, symbols confusing.

1 point

Map is an utter mess. No attempt at neatness is evident. Includes a blank page.

0 points


Every isoline is present on map, and clearly labeled. Proper lines are used for topographic elements, and symbols represent all known or discernible structures.

3 points

Requires isolines are present, some labels may be missing. Most identifiable structures in landscape are represented by appropriate symbols.

2 points

Some isolines missing, labels intermittent. Few structures are represented by the appropriate symbols.

1 point

More isolines are missing than are present, labels rare to nonexistent. Symbols for other structures are not present whatsoever.

0 points


Map clearly corresponds to given landscape. Geologic formations are clearly identifiable, and distances between objects on map are directly related to reality.

3 points

Map represents landscape. General contours are identifiable, although details may be slightly off. Distances are mostly consistent with reality.

2 points

Map is a gross interpretation of reality. Hills and valleys exist, but shapes vary from given landscape. Distances between objects are only roughly proportional to given landscape.

1 point

Are you sure you were mapping the landscape I gave you?

0 points

by Joel Stachura, 1995

Frequent and proper use of scientific terminology appropriate for the lab.

Data collection was within expected norms, explanations were given where they deviated.

Conclusion is appropriate for the data collected and shows a strong grasp of the scientific concepts.

Writing style shows neatness, grammatical correctness, good spelling.

The lab write up was complete with graphs and charts where appropriate. Check the parts present.

Purpose _____ Materials List ______ Procedures _____ Data and Observations _____ Calculations _____ Questions____ Conclusion ______

The response to the questions were carefully thought out and well reasoned.

by Barbara Schaner

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