How to Objectively Evaluate Student Assignments

Often we associate the idea of student assessment solely with the use of traditional multiple-choice question exams. However, these exams should be only a portion of the assessment methods used to understand student comprehension of the content taught. The use of different methods of evaluation can mean different problems are encountered. For example, when a research paper is assigned to evaluate the understanding of a concept, how do educators ensure that their assessment of this project is both objectively completed and that the evaluation is aligned and/or complimentary with other assignments or exams?

Logistics of Student Assignment Evaluation

The first part of the above problem is solely a logistical one. All teachers have been here at one point or another: there are 72 research papers to read and grade—how do you make sure that (a) this subjective form of assessment is scored as objectively as possible, and (b) that the first paper is treated the same as the one on the bottom of the stack?

The answer that many educators have found is a grading rubric. By having a set list of assignment criteria and a standardized scoring method for those criteria, teachers are able to stay as objective as possible when evaluating assignment types ranging from essays to mock trials. Regardless of whether they’re five minutes or five days into the grading process, a rubric that lists the specific requirements needed to master the assignment helps educators provide clear and concise expectations to students, stay focused on whether those requirements have been met, and then communicate how well they were met.

Rubrics are relatively easy to make and can be as simple as a column of criteria and then columns for rating. However, by using a rubric maker to not only create the tool but also to use it during the evaluation process, educators can gain an entirely new level of assessment and performance reporting.

Benefits of a Rubric Software

While a paper rubric will allow faculty to objectively evaluate a student assignment, educators greatly benefit from the ability to electronically categorize or “tag” rubrics to course learning objectives, student learning outcomes, or even accreditation standards. By tagging not only the entire rubric but also individual rubric rows (or criteria) to these objectives, faculty can then report on both student or class performance as a whole and also each individual objective. This data can also be provided to students to gain understanding of how they performed to specific assignment criteria and how those criteria tie into the course objectives they are working to master.

On top of having a software assist with tagging rubric criteria, another layer of reporting is available when educators use an assessment software that encompasses all of their student evaluation methods. As different assignments or assessments are used to measure student understanding of the same topic or course objective, the aggregation of that performance data can be incredibly valuable. By tagging rubrics AND more traditional, objective assessment types (such as multiple-choice question exams) with the same learning outcomes, faculty gain a complete picture of student performance, regardless of the method used to evaluate the student.

Now, with data from various assessment methods available, reports can be run for both faculty and students that provide a clear illustration of performance within the course, on the assignment, and to the specific learning outcomes the assignments or assessments were evaluating. This detailed feedback helps faculty address any curriculum gaps that might be present and helps students self-direct their study methods.

Regardless of how a rubric is created or used, the goal of the rubric as an evaluation tool should remain the same: providing the educator with the ability to clearly and accurately communicate assignment requirements and objectively measure student knowledge. When a rubric software is used, not only is an objective assessment method gained, but the data that can be collected from these assessment tools also can provide incredibly valuable information and feedback to students and faculty—making this assessment method as useful as possible to all parties involved.

Learn more about how ExamSoft’s Rubric tool can help with objectively assessing student assignments.