Exploring the way students use rubrics in the context of criterion referenced assessment

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 39: The Shape of Higher Education

July, 2016, 391 pages
Published by
Melissa Davis & Allan Goody

The aim of our study is to explore students' responses to rubrics. We wanted to discover how students read and use rubrics, and how useful and clear students find rubrics in explaining what is expected in assessment tasks and, later, explaining marks and marker comments. Rubrics are currently regarded as an important part of the assessment and moderation process, meant to provide markers with a means of achieving consistency and students with clarity and transparency in assessment tasks. We used an online survey with questions about whether, when and how students read rubrics; whether they feel able to ask for clarification if they do not understand something; to what extent, on return of an assignment, students focus on how their work is judged against the rubric; whether students ever feel overwhelmed by the amount or form of language used in a rubric and what other kinds of clarification might be helpful to them. In the pilot stage of this project, 22 surveys have been undertaken by student participants. Analysis of the pilot study data provided several clear indications that warrant further research. Namely, that class discussion is vital to comprehension of rubrics, the use of exemplars instead of/in addition to rubrics may aid student comprehension, the complexity of language used in rubrics may confuse students, and rubrics may not accurately reflect the work required for the task and therefore influence students to change their approach to the assessment task.

Keywords: rubrics, learning tools, assessment policy