Feb 092016

Mr Luke Attwood leads three modules (ranging levels 5 – 7) in the school of Computer Science and Informatics at DMU. The modules are; Object Oriented Software Design & Development, Object Oriented Programming, and E-Commerce Software.

Each component requires that students submit their software solutions in source code form and Luke uses the Assignment submission tool in DMU’s VLE (Blackboard) with an associated electronic rubric for marking and providing text based feedback.

None of the components are usually marked anonymously, although it is feasible to do this when circumstances require by hiding student identification data.

The rubrics are consistent in that they all involve a set of criteria against which there is a 5 tier scale that Luke has adopted to represent the levels of achievement (0 – 100) with a percentage and description attached; e.g. Significant room for improvement (40%).

Before rolling out the rubrics Luke tested them with colleagues second marking to ensure the rubrics would produce a consistent and accurate result. Luke constantly updates and tests the rubrics to further refine the wording of the criteria but over the last two years minimal changes have been required and the rubrics are performing well by way of consistency and the distribution of marks.

At first, colleagues were sceptical with regard to the rubrics providing enough variation of marks. Although each criteria only has a 5 tier scale (e.g. 0, 40, 60, 80, 100); as there are several different criteria Luke finds that the rubrics still return a granular spread of marks across the cohort. Luke did experiment with fewer criteria (and fewer levels of achievement) but this did result in bunching of marks and too many criteria (or levels of achievement) became unmanageable – Luke would advise a minimum of 3 criteria but 4 or more is better and is appropriate to the nature of the submissions on the modules he teaches. This, in combination with the 5 tier scale has consistently worked well.

When marking, Luke will enable the ‘Show Feedback’ view in Blackboard to enable personalised text feedback to be included alongside any pre-determined feedback that Luke may have pre-prepared as the rubric was produced. Not all of Luke’s rubrics include pre-filled feedback but if he finds that similar comments are being made on a frequent basis Luke will make a note of these for pasting into the relevant feedback section later. Having the Show Feedback view enabled also allows Luke to override the overall grade if necessary and he will always provide a text based comment with a brief explanation regarding any overridden grades.

Luke is confident that using rubrics to mark students work enables him to provide provisional grades and personalised text feedback in a timely manner. Whilst Luke’s students are yet to specifically provide feedback on his use of rubrics there has been no negative feedback from the students.

Luke finds that there are multiple benefits to using rubrics in this way. Rubrics provide the ability to easily mark and write comments in a single location that are then immediately available for students to view rather than having to upload a separate mark sheet, which for a lot of students in itself can be time consuming. The rubric grid also does all of the calculations automatically for Luke so he does not need to worry about this or even have the totals moderated. Furthermore, it provides an elegant way of placing comments directly next to where they are applicable.

Thank you to Luke Attwood for enabling this post to be created. If you wish to explore the use of rubrics in Blackboard further please contact your local ELT Project Officer.

Ian Pettit.