Assessment rubrics: thinking inside the boxes

in Learning and Teaching

Assessment rubrics are being promoted and introduced into tertiary teaching practices on the grounds that they are an efficient and reliable tool to evaluate student performance effectively and promote student learning. However, there has been little discussion on the value of using assessment rubrics in higher education. Rather, they are being gradually and (seemingly) uncritically mainstreamed into tertiary teaching expectations and practices, often through professional development workshops. This article investigates the pedagogic value and validity of criteria-based assessment rubrics and the instrumental rationality and goals informing them. Drawing on a small body of criticism, the article explores an emerging discourse that contends that assessment rubrics are not capable of measuring and evaluating complex thinking skills. Rather, they limit the independent responses of students and the professional judgement of markers, encourage compliance jeopardising student commitment and creativity, and promote a false sense of objectivity in the marking and grading of student work.