Tasks must be selected to permit an opportunity for meaningful judgements which align with learning outcomes. Almost all assessments are now judged against a set of criteria, not relative to othersâ€™ performance (e.g. using the â€˜bell curveâ€™). Criteria are helpful in clarifying expected standards and assisting the learner in understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Many tasks have rubrics associated, which outline specific criteria and what is expected across a range of standards. These rubrics serve multiple purposes. Firstly, they assist learners with formative activities, to self-assess and to develop their own judgements about performance. Secondly, they guide the learners in how to complete tasks. Thirdly, they frame the educatorsâ€™ judgement about the learner in a transparent manner. Finally, they support/facilitate specific feedback regarding strengths and weaknesses. Determining criteria is often a balancing act and requires the educator to make judgements about what the most relevant indicators of achieving a learning outcome are.
- How do the assessment tasks support accurate and meaningful judgements by learners and others?
- What are the institutional/departmental requirements as well as the learner expectations for grading?
- How does successful completion of the graded tasks reflect the learning outcomes?
- Will rubrics be developed, and if so, how? Will learners or colleagues have inputs at preliminary stages? How does prior student performance affect the design of the rubric?
- What does writing or revising a rubric tell you about the design of the task?
- How will you know if their criteria indicate successful meeting of the learning outcomes?
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I find developing criteria quite tricky, especially for open-ended tasks and also when Iâ€™m running a task for the first time. No matter how much effort and thought I put into this first run, I often find myself rewriting the criteria in subsequent years because the studentsâ€™ work and their questions make me realise I can do better to explain what the task entails. Other times when Iâ€™m rewriting criteria it makes me realise thereâ€™s something not right about the design of the task or somewhere the students need more support to complete it. â€“Â Education lecturer
One of the things I like about writing rubrics for written work is that they help me to identify the difference between levels of performance on each criterion for a task. I use rubrics qualitatively rather than quantitatively. I donâ€™t try to specifically weight each according to a mark and then add it up at the end to get a total. But I do use them to help me decide on the approximate grade and then I can look more closely at the distinctions to decide where that piece of assessment work sits. I find rubrics really helpful in discussions with students about the strength and weaknesses of their work. â€“ Education lecturer
- The University of New South Wales Assessment Toolkit has sections on Standards-Based Assessment unsw.edu.au/standards-based-assessment, and Grading and Giving Feedback teaching.unsw.edu.au/grading-assessment-feedback
- The University of Technology Sydney Assessment Futures site has a section on Grading and Exams uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/teaching-and-learning/assessment-futures/designing-and-redesigning-assessmen-1
- The United Kingdom Higher Education Academy has a 33-minute video Marking Criteria and Assessment Methods com/channels/154640/9320129
- The University of Sydneyâ€™s Assessment website has sections on Setting Standards and Writing Grade Descriptors itl.usyd.edu.au/assessmentresources/grade_descriptors.htm, Marking and Grading www.itl.usyd.edu.au/assessmentresources/marking_grading.htm
- The Better Judgement project flinders.edu.au/medicine/sites/better-judgement/ has a series of videos about bias, human judgement, subjectivity and reliability in assessment
- The United Kingdom Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education produces a guide for early-career academics titled Understanding assessment: its role in safeguarding academic standards and quality in higher education www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Documents/understanding-assessment.pdf