Democratising assessment rubrics: Making assessment rubrics more accessible for international students.
Undergraduate students in UK higher education are consistently dissatisfied with assessment and feedback. This dissatisfaction stems from their limited understanding of assessment language and criteria, as well as how criteria are applied when grading their work. International students face even greater difficulties in comprehending assessment criteria due to lack of preparation and support throughout the assessment process.
This issue is significant considering that international students account for a substantial portion of the student population. Unfortunately, there has been limited focus on supporting international students in navigating the assessment experience. This project aims to address the needs of international students in understanding and engaging with assessment rubrics.
Assessment rubrics are commonly used to communicate assessment expectations, making the task's purpose, criteria, and performance explicit. By employing rubrics, assessment transparency is enhanced, and students develop self-assessment skills and evaluative judgment.
Studies have shown that teachers often assume students understand rubric language, resulting in confusion and reduced clarity. This perception gap undermines the rubric's ability to clarify assessment aspects for students. Moreover, international students, who may have varied prior experience with rubrics, face challenges in comprehending assessment expectations, leading to unrealized potential and lower grades.
These findings underscore the necessity of investigating international students' rubric needs while simultaneously enhancing academics' rubric design skills.
This project aims to support first-year undergraduate international students in assessment by enhancing engagement with assessment rubrics and developing academics’ ability to design effective rubrics with international students in mind.
Data is collected using in-person focus groups which was transcribed and thematically coded using NVivo12.
Summary of Findings
Findings revealed that some of international students' challenges understanding assessment criteria and engagement with assessment rubrics derive from the different ways assessment rubrics are used in further education compared to higher education. Some students had experiences of assessment rubrics being used to direct the acquisition of marks or as a grading tool, but rarely as guide for their learning.
Students recognized differences between analytic rubrics, holistic rubrics and marking schemes, but had limited understanding of why they one may be used over the other and how the tools can differentially facilitate their understanding of assessment expectations. To aid their understanding, students emphasized the value of multiple opportunities for engagement with the assessment rubric and teacher-student interaction.
Students expressed preferences about the the layout of assessment rubrics such as standards columns descending from the highest to lowest grades from left to right. They commented in the need for assessment rubrics to be 'user friendly' and noted the negative impact of wordiness and repetition with their desire to engage with the rubric.
Most students agreed that they had limited understanding of the language used in the assessment rubric and desired more opportunities to discuss assessment expectations, criteria, and standards with tutors, and felt that these discussion should be facilitated at multiple points during a course.
Specifically, students believed that criteria should be discussed in class at the beginning of the assessment period and at the point they will most realistically start preparing the assessment, even if that is considered "the last minute".
Finally, most students agreed that the use of exemplars is valuable in enhancing their understanding but specified that these must be used in thoughtful and nuanced ways to benefit their understanding of assessment criteria and contributed to their learning.
Funding Body: UK Council for International Student Affairs
Period: February 2023 - April 2024
Funding Body: King’s Business School
Period: February 2023 - April 2024
Dr Chahna Gonsalves