Rubrics: the good, the bad and the genius column

Another day, another coffee club drop in session. For our penultimate drop in session this week, the topic of conversation was Rubrics.

Once again Jim Emery, assisted by John Smith (Learning Technologist, SHLS)  got things started by giving an overview of what rubrics are, and examples of how they can be set up and used.  These slides from Jim’s presentation at the Blackboard Conference early this year give an overview.

Rubrics are marking grids, which explicitly breakdown the marking scheme and criteria for a particular assignment.  This not only helps modules teams to develop more consistent approaches to marking, but as rubrics should be shared with students, can make the marking process more explicit to students too.  Our quick overview guide to rubrics provides some more information.

Ken Garner, Senior Lecturer in Media and Journalism then gave a very entertaining presentation about his use of rubrics in Turnitin, and how he and his module team have evolved their practice over the past 4 years.  Ken shared some examples of marked work which gave a really comprehensive illustration of how you can combine a rubric, QuickMarks and comments to give rich feedback.  Each year the module team review their rubrics and adapt the criteria and marks in light of their experiences over the past year. Choosing criteria weighting does involve a bit of experimentation and trial and error. As well as improving consistency of marks across the teaching team, using rubrics has reduced the need for marking meetings as module leaders can easily check the status of marked/unmarked assignments.

The rubrics and marking criteria are expanded within programme and module handbooks (all available through GCULearn), and before each assignment a copy of the rubric is given to each students in class where staff explain the marking criteria.

Some of the discussions around the demos included the fear that this “mechanised” approach would remove the ability to award credit for creativity. However, as Ken pointed out, you can always add a “genius” column for exactly that:-)  Of course there are limitations, and rubrics may not be appropriate for all assignments.  The more complex the breakdown of marks and criteria the less useful rubrics can become. However for Ken, and growing number of others across GCU and beyond, rubrics combined with QuickMarks and comments are providing a very useful way to provide better and more consistent marks and feedback/feedforward for both staff and students.

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