I have to admit that I’m not a fan of rubrics – preferring non-standardised forms of assessment – and perhaps because most of the rubrics I have come across have been pretty terrible. So I thought I’d have a go at developing a better one.
I am aiming for this halfbaked traditional academic rubric to be a generic rubric that could be applied to any traditional academic assignment produced in English. By this I mean any undergraduate assignment that requires a predominantly text-based response, in English, and is designed to assess an individual working on their own (i.e. it does not cater for group assignments or for multimedia projects or presentations).
I wonder if this is even possible – and would love your feedback – Is this a crazy idea? How would you improve this rubric?
A good rubric should meet the following criteria (is this a rubric for rubrics?!):
- The rubric should have a number of discrete criteria which are orthogonal (i.e. mutually exclusive)
- Each criterion should be relevant to the assignment set
- Each criterion should have a number of ‘grade’ descriptors
- These descriptors should be unambiguous – they should make it clear what you need to do to achieve each grade for that criterion
- The descriptors for each grade should not overlap with any of the other descriptors (also orthogonal)
- There should be a clear progression from the lowest to the highest grade for each criterion
- Each ‘grade’ descriptor should have an associated mark /score
- The lowest ‘grade’ should always have a score of 0
This rubric has three core sets of criteria, related to:
- the extent to which the assignment brief has been met (The brief)
- the quality of communication (Academic writing)
- the depth of academic expertise (Academic understanding)
The first of these three sets of criteria feels different to the other two, because if you don’t address The brief (i.e. you don’t do what the assignment ask you to do) then you shouldn’t be able to get a high grade, even if you have done well on the other criteria. To reflect that this rubric uses the mark from The brief as a multiplier – the mark you get on The brief is multiplied by the sum of the marks that you get on the other criteria.
All of the other criteria also have five ‘grade’ descriptors, which are scored from 0 to 4.
As Academic writing has three criteria, the maximum possible score is 12.
As Academic understanding has four criteria, the maximum possible score is 16. This is intended to reflect the greater importance of Academic understanding than Academic writing.
Given that the rubric explains what a student has to do to achieve particular scores, it is critical that students engage with the rubric as part of the assignment development process. To that end, this rubric includes an additional element. As part of the assignment each student has to submit a copy of the rubric showing the ‘grade’ descriptors that s/he thinks the assignment aligns with. When the tutor marks the assignment, s/he has an additional criterion to use – Student’s assessment.
The overall mark is made up of the tutor’s scores for Academic writing (max. of 12) plus Academic understanding (max. 16) plus Student’s assessment (Max. 4) all multiplied by their score for The brief (max. 1).
mark = (Academic writing + Academic understanding + Self-assessment) x The Brief
That gives a maximum mark of 32 – which isn’t a very helpful number (who marks out of 32?).
I could change this in several ways:
- Have six grade descriptors for each criterion – resulting in a maximum possible score of 40.
- Allocate different marks to some grade descriptors (e.g. Doubling the marks for each of the Academic understanding criteria)
- Doing a scaling calculation. If I wanted a mark out of n I would divide the mark achieved (m) by 32 then multiply by n.
Mark out of n = (Mark achieved ÷ 32) x n
Do you have a better solution?
Tell me what you think about this halfbaked traditional academic rubric and how it might be improved by adding a comment below …