Assessment Criteria and Rubrics

An Introduction

This guide is an introduction to:

  • Writing an assessment brief with clear assessment criteria and rubrics
  • Grading tools available in Turnitin enabling the use of criteria and rubrics in marking.

Clear and explicit assessment criteria and rubrics are meant to increase the transparency of the assessment and aim to develop students into ‘novice assessors’ (Gipps, 1994) and facilitating deep learning.  Providing well-designed criteria and rubrics, contributes to communicating assessment requirements that can be more inclusive to all (including markers) regardless of previous learning experiences, and or individual differences in language, cultural and educational background.  It also facilitates the development of self-judgment skills (Boud & Falchikov, 2007).

Contents

  • Terminology explored
    • Assessment brief
    • Assessment criteria
    • Assessment rubric
  • Developing criteria and rubrics within Turnitin
    • Guidance in how to create rubrics and grading forms
  • Guidance on how to create a rubric in Handin
  • References

Terminology Explored

The terms ‘assessment brief’, ‘assessment criteria’ and ‘assessment rubrics’ however, are often used interchangeably and that may lead to misunderstandings and impact on the effectiveness of the design and interpretation of the assessment brief.  Therefore, it is important to first clarify these terms:

Assessment Brief

An assessment (assignment) brief refers to the instructions provided to communicate the requirements and expectations of assessment tasks, including the assessment criteria and rubrics to students.  The brief should clearly outline which module learning outcomes will assessed in the assignment.

NOTE: If you are new to writing learning outcomes, or need a refresher, have a look at Baume’s guide to “Writing and using good learning outcomes”, (2009).  See list of references.

When writing an assessment brief, it may be useful to consider the following questions with regards to your assessment brief:

  • Have you outlined clearly what type of assessment you require students to complete?  For example, instead of “written assessment”, outline clearly what type of written assessment you require from your students; is it a report, a reflective journal, a blog, presentation, etc.  It is also recommended to give a breakdown of the individual tasks that make up the full assessment within the brief, to ensure transparency.
  • Is the purpose of the assessment immediately clear to your students, i.e. why the student is being asked to do the task?  It might seem obvious to you as an academic, but for students new to academia and the subject discipline, it might not be clear.  For example, explain why they have to write a reflective report or a journal and indicate which module learning outcomes are to be assessed in this specific assessment task.
  • Is all the important task information clearly outlined, such as assessment deadlines, word count, criteria and further support and guidance?

Assessment Criteria

Assessment criteria communicate to students the knowledge, skills and understanding (thus in line with the expected module learning outcomes) the assessors expect from students to evidence in any given assessment task.  To write a good set of criteria, the focus should be on the characteristics of the learning outcomes that the assignment will evidence and not only consider the characteristics of the assignment (task), i.e., presentation, written task, etc.

Thus, the criteria outlines what we expect from our students (based on learning outcomes), however it does not in itself make assumptions about the actual quality or level of achievement (Sadler, 1987: 194) and needs to be refined in the assessment rubric.  

When writing an assessment brief, it may be useful to consider the following questions with regards to the criteria that will be applied to assess the assignment:

  • Are your criteria related and aligned with the module and (or) the course learning outcomes?
  • What are the number of criteria you will assess in any particular task?  Consider how realistic and achievable this may be.
  • Are the criteria clear and have you avoided using any terms not clear to students (academic jargon)?
  • Are the criteria and standards (your quality definitions) aligned with the level of the course?  For guidance, consider revisiting the  Credit Level Descriptors (SEEC, 2016) and the QAA Subject Benchmarks in Framework for the Higher Education Qualifications that are useful starting points to consider.

Assessment Rubric

The assessment rubric, forms part of a set of criteria and refers specifically to the “levels of performance quality on the criteria.” (Brookhart & Chen, 2015, p. 343)

Generally, rubrics are categorised into two categories, holistic and or analytic. A holistic rubric assesses an assignment as a whole and is not broken down into individual assessment criteria.  For the purpose of this guidance, the focus will be on an analytic rubric that provides separate performance descriptions for each criterion.

An assessment rubric is therefore a tool used in the process of assessing student work that usually includes essential features namely the:  

  • Scoring strategy – Can be numerical of qualitative, associated with the levels of mastery (quality definitions). (Shown as SCALE in Turnitin)
  • Quality definitions (levels of mastery) – Specify the levels of achievement / performance in each criterion.

 (Dawson, 2017).

The figure below, is an example of the features of a complete rubric including the assessment criteria. 

SCORING STRATEGIES – SCALE
 E.g. Outstanding 80% plusE.g. Excellent (72, 75, 78)E.g. Good (62, 65, 68)E.g. Acceptable (52, 55, 58)E.g. Adequate (42, 45, 48)E.g. Fail Below 40%
EVALUATIVE CRITERIA E.g. Criteria ONE:LEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERY
EVALUATIVE CRITERIA E.g. Criteria TWO:LEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERY
EVALUATIVE CRITERIA E.g. Criteria THREE:LEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERYLEVEL OF MASTERY

When writing an assessment brief, it may be useful to consider the following questions with regards to firstly, the assessment brief, and secondly, the criteria and associated rubrics.

  • Does your scoring strategy clearly define and cover the whole grading range?  For example, do you distinguish between the distinctions (70-79%) and 80% and above?
  • Are the words and terms used to indicate level of mastery, clearly outlining and enabling students to distinguish between the different judgements?  For example, how do you differentiate between work that is outstanding, excellent and good?
  • Is the chosen wording in your rubric too explicit?  It should be explicit but at the same time not overly specific to avoid students adopting a mechanistic approach to your assignment.  For example, instead of stating a minimum number references, consider stating rather effectiveness or quality of the use of literature, and or awareness or critical analysis of supporting literature.

NOTE: For guidance across Coventry University Group on writing criteria and rubrics, follow the links to guidance.

 POST GRADUATE Assessment criteria and rubrics (mode R)

 UNDER GRADUATE Assessment criteria and rubrics (mode E)

Developing Criteria and Rubrics within Turnitin

Within Turnitin, depending on the type of assessment, you have a choice between four grading tools:

  1. Qualitative Rubric – A rubric that provides feedback but has no numeric scoring.  More descriptive than measurable.  This rubric is selected by choosing the ‘0’ symbol at the base of the Rubric.
  2. Standard Rubric – Used for numeric scoring.  Enter scale values for each column (rubric score) and percentages for each criteria row, combined to be equal to 100%.  This rubric can calculate and input the overall grade.  This rubric is selected by choosing the % symbol at the base of the Rubric window.
  3. Custom Rubric – Add criteria (row) and descriptive scales (rubric), when marking enter (type) any value directly into each rubric cell.  This rubric will calculate and input the overall grade.  This rubric is selected by choosing the ‘Pencil’ symbol at the base of the Rubric window.
  4. Grading form – Can be used with or without numerical score.  If used without numerical score, then it is more descriptive feedback.  If used with numerical scoring, this can be added together to create an overall grade.  Note that grading forms can be used without a ‘paper assignment’ being submitted, for example, they can be used to assess work such as video submission, work of art, computer programme or musical performance.

Guidance on how to Create Rubric and Grading Forms

Guidance by Turnitin:

https://help.turnitin.com/feedback-studio/turnitin-website/instructor/rubric-scorecards-and-grading-forms/creating-a-rubric-or-grading-form-during-assignment-creation.htm

University of Kent – Creating and using rubrics and grading form (written guidance):

https://www.kent.ac.uk/elearning/files/turnitin/turnitin-rubrics.pdf

Some Examples to Explore

It is useful to explore some examples in Higher Education, and the resource developed by UCL of designing generic assessment criteria and rubrics from level 4 to 7, is a good starting point.

Guidance on how to Create Rubric in Handin

Within Handin, depending on the type of assessment, you have a choice between three grading tools, see list below, as well as the choice to use “free-form” grading that allows you to enter anything in the grade field when grading submissions.

  • None = qualitative
  • Range = quantitative – can choose score from range
  • Fixed = quantitative – one score per level

Guide to Handin: Creating ungraded (“free-form”) assignments

https://aula.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360053926834

Guide to Handin: Creating rubricshttps://aula.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/360017154820-How-can-I-use-Rubrics-for-Assignments-in-Aula-

References and Further Reading

Baume, D (2009) Writing and using good learning outcomes. Leeds Metropolitan University. ISBN 978-0-9560099-5-1 Link to Leeds Beckett Repository record: http://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/id/eprint/2837/1/Learning_Outcomes.pdf

Boud, D & Falchikov, N. (2007) Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education. London: Routledge.

Brookhart, S.M. & Chen, F. (2015) The quality and effectiveness of descriptive rubrics, Educational Review, 67:3, pp.343-368.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00131911.2014.929565

Dawson, P. (2017) Assessment rubrics: Towards clearer and more replicable design, research and practice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(3), pp.347-360. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2015.1111294

Gipps, C.V. (1994) Beyond testing: Towards a theory of educational assessment. Psychology Press.

Sadler, D.R. (1987) Specifying and promulgating achievement standards. Oxford Review of Education, 13(2), pp.191-209.

SEEC (2016) Credit Level Descriptors. Available:http://www.seec.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/SEEC-descriptors-2016.pdf

UK QAA Quality Code (2014) Part A – Setting and Maintaining Academic Standards. Available: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/docs/qaa/quality-code/qualifications-frameworks.pdf

About the author(s)

Updated on August 30, 2021

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