Using Assessment Rubrics

Overview

A rubric for assessment, usually in the form of a matrix or grid, is a tool used to interpret and grade students' work against criteria and standards. Rubrics are sometimes called "criteria sheets", "grading schemes", or "scoring guides". Rubrics can be designed for any content domain.

A rubric makes explicit a range of assessment criteria and expected performance standards. Assessors evaluate a student's performance against all of these, rather than assigning a single subjective score. A rubric:

  • handed out to students during an assessment task briefing makes them aware of all expectations related to the assessment task, and helps them evaluate their own work as it progresses
  • helps teachers apply consistent standards when assessing qualitative tasks, and promotes consistency in shared marking.

You can use rubrics to structure discussions with students about different levels of performance on an assessment task. They can employ the rubric during peer assessment and self-assessment, to generate and justify assessments. Once you've familiarised students with the idea of rubrics, you can have them assist in the rubric design process, thus taking more responsibility for their own learning.

-

Case studies


Video about iUNSW Rubrik Application

[See Transcript of video]

iRubrik

This video shows how the Mechanical Engineering project (ENGG1000, T1 2011) used the iUNSW Rubrik iPad marking app to mark the final project competition, making the process much quicker and more efficient.


iUNSW Rubrik iOS App used in ENGG1000 T1 2011

UNSW Rubrics in Action - Chemical Engineering

Assessing a final year thesis

As part of his final year undergraduate course in Chemical Engineering, Dr Graeme Bushell has designed and tested the rubric described below over several semesters.

Students in Chemical Engineering, Industrial Chemistry and Food Science programs at UNSW are required to deliver a poster at the end of their final year thesis, explaining their research results. The assessment task aligns with:

  • the UNSW graduate capability of producing "scholars who are capable of effective communication", and
  • the Engineers Australia stage 1 competency "effective oral and written communication in the professional and lay domains".

The posters are presented over one morning in the final week of semester, with school academic staff and postdoctoral fellows browsing the work. The session runs along the lines of a conference poster session, with students explaining their projects to small groups and/or individuals throughout the session and answering questions as appropriate. Academics are each assigned a set of posters to mark according to specified criteria, using marking sheets, with rubrics, which are collected at the end of the poster session. Each student receives at least 4 assessments. The marking sheets are then collated by the course convenor and a final mark allocated.

A change in assessment scheme

The assessment scheme used for the posters was changed from first semester 2012, as the new convenor for the final year thesis courses (Bushell) felt that the old scheme used too many assessment criteria, and that the implementation of a standards-based approach would improve practice—and more closely align with UNSW recommended practice at the time, which is now policy.

The rubric

The criteria are listed and a range of performance standards between lowest and highest are included. Descriptors describe each level of performance.

The rubric is first presented to students in the Course Outline and they are encouraged to discuss it with their supervisor. The marking scheme for the rubric is also presented in the Course Outline. The poster assessment is worth 15% of the total marks for the course.

The marking sheet/table

Dr Bushell uses a simple layout for this rubric, as this allows more flexibility than a tabular format in terms of distribution of performance bands within a criterion, the number of performance bands used in each criterion and the weighting of different criteria.

His marking sheet is shown below, followed by an example of how the same criteria might look in a tabular format.

Poster Assessment Marking Sheet

(Original format of rubric, as used by Graeme Bushell, School of Chemical Engineering)

Student name:___________________________

Marker name:____________________________

Date:___________________________________

Context

Put a tick next to the description which best describes how well the student explained why the work was done.

□ The student cannot explain why the research was done.

□ The student attempts to explain why the work was done but you don't think they really understand.

□ The student is able to explain why the work was done in direct terms.

□ The student is able to explain the broader context that the work fits into—why it was done and how important it is.

 

Content

Put a tick next to the description which best describes the quality of the work that was done.

□ The work appears to be incomplete—it fails to address the stated aims.

□ The work contains serious errors—the conclusions are cast into serious doubt.

□ The work contains some minor errors of design or execution that are unlikely to undermine the main conclusions.

□ The work appears to have been completed without errors.
 

Communication

Put a tick next to the description which best describes how well the student presented the work.

□ Taken together, graphical and verbal communication are so poor that you are left unsure what the project is about.

□ Multiple deficiencies: more than one of aims, methods, results and conclusions are not clear.

□ One of  the following is not clear: aims, methods, results, conclusions.

□ Aims, methods, results and conclusions are clear but only after probing. Some aspects of the poster or presentation were poorly considered.

□ Aims, methods, results, conclusions are all clear. The poster is adequate.

□ Aims, methods, results, conclusions are all clear. The poster is attractive.

□ Aims, methods, results, conclusions are all clear. The poster is attractive and the presentation engaging.

 

Q&A

Put a tick next to the description which best describes how well the student answered questions.

□ The student is effectively unable to answer questions about the project.

□ The student attempts to answer questions about the project but clearly doesn't really understand.

□ The student is able to answer questions about the project—you are fairly sure they understand what they're doing.

□ The student listens carefully and answers questions easily and directly—they are clearly across the project.

 

Poster Assessment Rubric

(Marking sheet criteria presented in grid format. Each Performance standard cell can be allocated a mark or grade band, as determined in the specific context.)

Student name:___________________________

Marker name:____________________________

Date:___________________________________

Criteria

Performance standards
Circle the description that best describes how well the student fulfilled the criteria.
(Only circle one description per criterion.)

Additional comments

Rationale
Has the student been able to explain why the work was done?

The student is able to explain the broader context that the work fits into—why it was done and how important it is.

The student is able to explain why the work was done in direct terms.

The student attempts to explain why the work was done but you don't think they really understand.

The student cannot explain why the research was done.

 

Content
How good is the work that was done?

The work appears to have been completed without errors.

The work contains some minor errors of design or execution that are unlikely to undermine the main conclusions.

The work contains serious errors—the conclusions are cast into serious doubt.

The work appears to be incomplete—it fails to address the stated aims.

 

Communication
How well is the work presented?

Aims, methods, results, conclusions are all clear. The poster is:
□ adequate
□ attractive
□ attractive, and the presentation is engaging.

Aims, methods, results and conclusions are clear but only after probing. Some aspects of the poster or presentation were poorly considered.

Multiple deficiencies: more than one of aims, methods, results and conclusions are not clear.

Taken together, graphical and verbal communication are so poor that you are left unsure what the project is about.

 

Q&A
How well is the student able to answer questions?

The student listens carefully and answers questions easily and directly—they are clearly across the project.

The student is able to answer questions about the project—you are fairly sure they understand what they're doing.

The student attempts to answer questions about the project but clearly doesn't really understand.

The student is effectively unable to answer questions about the project.

 

 

Additional information