Marking criteria

So how do we check students' achievement of the subject learning outcomes? By developing marking criteria which relate to the specific task at hand and the knowledge, skills and application you expect the student to demonstrate through the assessment task – which should link back to the subject learning outcomes.

While a task description states what students will hand in, criteria are about what you will prioritise when you assess what they submit. Telling students what you value ahead of time builds a powerful partnership and shared responsibility.

Criteria are the elements you will use to evaluate a student's work. They should not simply restate the assessment tasks or elements, but articulate the learning and what you are giving value to – that is, you need to make your expectations explicit. Remember to include all of your expectations and requirements in the marking criteria in clear, unambiguous terminology, and outline the standard expected. Use similar wording to the Learning Outcome can support students to clearly see the links. Marking criteria may also relate to whether the task has been answered correctly, but also how the response has been presented in terms of language and style. If you require fluent use of English and grammar, this should be included in the criteria such as referencing requirements.

What you need to do

  1. Identify the 4-5 main elements you are looking for in students' responses. These should match the skills, knowledge and application you identified in your learning outcomes in the previous section. For example:
    1. Application of theory to a relevant example
    2. Analysis
    3. Knowledge of topic
    4. Professional presentation, etc.
  2. Flesh these out more to explain what it is you are looking for, using the action, content and context approach.
  3. The example below shows the colour coded alignment of the component parts of the learning outcome and the criterion. The green text is what you want students to ‘do’, the red text is what you want students to ‘know’, and the blue text is the ‘context’ of that knowledge.

    Criterion Learning outcome
    Critical analysis of the application of the identified political behaviour including the strategies and tactics employed. Be able to critically analyse the application of political strategies in organisations

    Critical analysis' is what you want students to do, 'application' is the context of that knowledge, 'political behaviour including the strategies and tactics employed' is what you want students to know.

  4. Now review your criteria and ensure:
    1. The criteria describe what is important for students to demonstrate.
    2. You have used language from the learning outcomes in your criteria.
    3. Your existing criteria link to the subject learning outcomes.
    4. You're not assessing anything that is outside the scope of the learning outcomes that is potentially irrelevant to a student's achievement in this subject.
    5. You haven't used any value descriptions, such as 'adequate' or 'satisfactory' because these are subjective terms and do not clearly describe what is valued in the criteria.

This PowerPoint on writing criteria and standards may help.

Sources to assist you in developing criteria could include:

  1. Accreditation requirements
  2. The level of the subject (AQF)
  3. The research literature
  4. Peak bodies (Professional Associations)
  5. Your own professional experience
  6. Your knowledge of the topic & students
  7. Example rubrics for similar disciplines or assessment type.

Once you've written your criteria, you then need to develop the performance standards.