To rubric or not to rubric? summary from October’s Coffee Club discussion


“To rubric or not to rubric” that was the question framing the discussion at our latest Blended Learning Coffee Club meeting. Ken Garner and Catriona Miller, GSBS, led the discussions illustrating their uses of not only rubrics but GradeMark, QuickMarks and Grading Forms in Turnitin.

Both Ken and Catriona use QuickMarks functionality of GradeMark regularly when marking assessments. Having a standard set of comments saves time and provides consistency of feedback. There is also the added flexibility of adding and personalising comments. Creating sets of QuickMarks does of course take some time, but there are a set of comments provided within Turnitin which can help to get you started.  You can also share comments with others, and comments can be re-purposed and tweaked as you get more familiar with the process and of course the assignments you are marking.  Both agreed that for team taught modules, use of GradeMark has been a “revelation”.

Ken gave another excellent overview of how he creates and uses rubrics (there is a more detailed post from his presentation during our September meet-ups).  Again it does take time to create a rubric, but the operational benefits it provides are compelling. It allows greater consistency and transparency of marking for staff and students alike. If you use a rubric, it is included in the student download option of marked work.  For programmes with lots of assignments such as journalism, the use of rubrics does speed up the marking process considerably. It also cuts down on the need for marking meetings, as module leaders can not only see that work is being marked, but can also easily review marks if there are any issues.

Whilst appreciating the value of rubrics, Catriona tends to use the Grading Form more for a number of her modules.  She finds that by using the criteria functionality and linking her comments to criteria she can give equally valuable feedback, but has a greater degree of flexibility in terms of awarding a final mark.  Catriona also uses the audio feedback feature to give personalised, short (max. 3 minutes) audio feedback to students, as well as the more detailed comments.

As Catriona said, using rubrics or the grading form is pretty much horses for courses. There is no right or wrong way. It all comes down to your own context and academic judgement.  However, if you are using Turnitin, you do have make a choice between the two – you can’t use both in an assignment.

Once again a really stimulating session, so thanks to Catriona and Ken and everyone who attended.


One thought on “To rubric or not to rubric? summary from October’s Coffee Club discussion

  1. In my opinion, Turnitin rubrics are flawed in two ways.

    Firstly, when setting up the rubric, each criteria has the same number of divisions, as it’s a grid. I don’t think this is necessarily useful as there are some criteria that may need to be assessed in different ways. For example you might have 1-10 for content but pass and fail for “Referenced correctly”. It would be meaningless to have 10 divisions for the latter criterion.

    Secondly, the worst bit in my opinion, is that the rubric always scales upwards, so that if you have 10 divisions and the weighting is say 30, each division is worth 3 marks, and only 3 marks. You can not assign a grade of, say 5/30 for one thing as it will only let you assign 3/30 or 6/30.

    I think that Blackboard rubrics correct this second error quite elegantly. Hope that Turnitin can integrate similar functionality without getting done for plagiarism, which would be ironic.

    Because of the latter flaw, I find that I recommend people use grading forms when setting up marking grids. Although not perfect (and still not perfectly compatible with iPad marking), I think that the benefit of being able to mark on a genuine sliding scale outweighs the downsides at the moment


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