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ERIC Number: ED524704
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 16
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Using Rubrics as a Tool for Building Justice into Assessment Practices
Alexander, Colette R.; Praeger, Sadie
Australian Teacher Education Association, Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA) (Albury, Jun 28-Jul 1, 2009)
Students are empowered or disempowered by the information that we provide or withhold from them; nowhere is this more significant that in assessment practices (Popham 1997). While some students are able to successfully navigate the nuances of assessment, others see assessment as a bamboozling array of "smoke and mirrors" designed to shroud achievement in mystery (Martin-Kniep 2000; Weiner 2000). In 2008 the academic staff of the School of Education and Humanities at Christian Heritage College, a private higher-education provider in South-East Queensland, initiated an action research project designed to address the gaps and silences evident in assessment processes in order to encourage justice in and equity of engagement with assessment practices for all students. The aims of this research were to: (1) Identify aspects of assessment practices that were not being overtly and openly communicated with students; (2) Consider the use of rubrics as an assessment tool to address these gaps, silences and inconsistencies between the declared and actual assessment processes; (3) Understand how students engage with rubrics as an assessment tool; and (4) Explore the potentialities of using rubrics as a means of leading students towards empowered understanding of assessment practices. To date, two cycles of action research have been completed (Freebody 2003; Kemmis & McTaggart 1988). The first involved a working party of three full-time lecturing staff; the purpose being to establish the scope of potential action through the undertaking of an audit of practice, a review of literature and the development of recommendations that would structure further action. The second cycle involved five full-time staff in applying the nine recommendations with undergraduate students across all four years of the Bachelor of Education programs. Data was collected from participating lecturers and students across Years 2-4 by the means of email-back questionnaires. Lecturers were asked open-ended questions and the data was analysed by the identification and classification of unique meaning units leading to emergent categories (Glesne 1999; Johnson & Christensen 2004). Students were asked to respond to a yes/no survey questioning the nature of their engagement with the rubrics across six possible processes. This data was collated quantitatively then linked to the students' results for each task. Descriptive statistics such as frequency distributions and measures of central tendency were used to identify patterns in the data relating to rubric usage and corresponding assessment outcomes (Johnson & Christensen 2004). The data collected demonstrated that there were differential levels of engagement with rubrics within both the staff and student groups. For students, the data showed that while not using the provided rubrics did not automatically lead to lower levels of achievement, a greater level of engagement with the rubrics did correlate with higher levels of achievement. For lecturing staff, the level of engagement in the use of the recommendations was shown to positively affect the lecturer's impression of the quality of their linguistic clarity in and alignment of teaching and learning with assessment practices. The findings from the student data shows that there are, broadly speaking, three types of students in relation to assessment practices; the mystified, the intuitive and the empowered. Analysis of the data collected from both staff and students also supports the conclusion that rubric usage does affect learning and assessment outcomes, and that student knowledge of and engagement with rubrics will positively impact results. A process of learning was also evident in the differential processes and practices of lecturing staff as they engaged with creating, teaching about and teaching with rubrics. These findings have led to the initiation of a third cycle of action designed to engage with more lecturing staff to investigate what intuitive and empowered students actually do, in order to bring justice to the assessment practices of the mystified. (Contains 4 figures and 2 tables.)
Australian Teacher Education Association. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Australian Teacher Education Association (ATEA)
Identifiers - Location: Australia