I continue to share brief lessons from the modules in Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching MOOC. Session 1, 2024 will start 12th February. Enrolments are open now: https://canvas.instructure.com/enroll/FPXJJW.

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Assessment in Focus is Module 16 and part of the Enhancing your teaching pathway through the course. It was developed by Associate Professor Amanda White (University of Technology, Sydney) and Audrea Warner (University of Auckland). It follows their introduction to assessment in Module 15 which explored assessment design, communication, and marking.

Assessment in Focus covers rubrics; assessing group work; academic integrity; and moderation. Working through the module requires an exemplar assessment to enable the application of theoretical perspectives to practice. The authors suggest that those who have not taught in higher education use an assessment completed as a student.

It is tricky to distil one lesson from this rich module but I have decided to share the learning activity on rubrics.

A rubric is essentially a type of scoring guide that assesses and explains specific components and expectations for an assessment. Rubrics can be used for a variety of assessments: research papers, group projects, portfolios, and presentations.

According to Wolfe and Stevens (2007), “rubrics improve teaching, contribute to sound assessment, and are an important source of information for program improvement” (p. 3).

Rubrics list the criteria established for a particular task and the levels of achievement associated with each criterion and are often developed in the form of a matrix. For example:

Example rubricDoes not meet expectations
Score 0
Below expectations

Score 1
Meets expectations

Score 2
Above expectations

Score 3
Project definitionDefinition is missingNarrow focus, ambiguous and lacks specificity to project briefClear, unambiguous approach to meet project briefFocussed and creative approach to project brief
Strategy effectivenessStrategy is not detailedNot planned well and lacks some coherence with project aimsAchievable, credible, coherent strategy that meets project aimsSkilfully planned strategy that comprehensively addresses project aims in an original way

Using analytic rubrics, the criteria are usually listed down the left column, with the descriptions of the levels of achievement across the rows for each criterion. A judgement is based on each performance indicator for levels of achievement in each dimension.

Reflect on one of your own assessment rubrics

Using the rubric associated with your assessment task, consider each of the following questions:

  1. Rubrics created for a specific task are more easily understood by markers and students than generic rubrics. Does your rubric look like it was custom made for this task? Does the assessment task specifically ask for everything that is in the rubric? Does the task require the student to do things that are not in the criteria?
  2. Will students have a copy of the rubric before they commence the task? If not, why not?
  3. How is the rubric scored? Possible approaches include ‘holistic’ scoring, where the marker comes up with a score or ‘analytic’ scoring, where the marker follows a formula or adds up numbers in boxes.
  4. Are the quality of performance categories/criteria in this rubric predominantly about the presence or absence of specific information, e.g. ‘uses three references’, or are they more complex? (e.g. a scale or spectrum of performance)
  5. How are markers and students supported to understand the rubric? For example, are students provided with samples of what the quality of work might look like in relation to each criteria?
  6. What can they do if they have any questions? Are in-class (synchronous) activities provided to help students actively engage with the rubric?

It is helpful to discuss these questions with teaching teams to ensure a consistent approach to the use of rubrics.

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Posted by Agnes Bosanquet

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