Establish valid and reliable grading
Fellowship participants emphasised that it is important that the program team identifies and clarifies exactly what indicators and evidence will be used to allocate and distinguish between different grades (for example fail, pass, credit, distinction and high distinction) and that this process is benchmarked within and beyond the university and is compliant with the institution’s assessment policy. They also suggest that how these criteria and indicators will be applied be specifically discussed with students, using examples, in the first session of each unit of study.
- Is everyone who will grade assessment tasks clear on the indicators and evidence they will use to allocate different grade levels?
- Make sure that how grades will be allocated is based on agreed evidence. Do this by:
- Producing exemplars of different grades
- Building these exemplars into assessment-focused learning guides in each unit of study. Assessment focused learning guides:
- Start with which of the program level outcomes this unit is addressing
- The objectives and learning outcomes for the unit
- The assessment task(s) to be completed in the unit and how/why these validly measure the desired outcomes
- Then give clickable exemplars of what a fail and a credit would look like in a similar (but not the same) assessment task
- Followed by the learning methods and resources built into the unit to help students do as well as possible on their assessment.
Outcomes and assessment-focused learning guides
In universities like Western Sydney University assessment focused unit learning guides have been used with high levels of success in showing students what different grades look like in practice. The UWS Assessment Guide 2015 gives more detail on a range of ‘fit-for-purpose’ assessment tasks, different grade indicators and a wide range of examples.
An explicit set of grading indicators in a diabetes education course at UTS
Below is one example of a grading system with indicators used in a diabetes education course in the 1990s which attracted high levels of positive student feedback and which builds on the works of John Biggs (1992) and his SOLO Taxonomy.
As per Distinction but highly consistent levels of appropriate,
As per Credit but more consistent transformation, selectivity
Evidence of a broad understanding of key points raised in
Evidence of understanding of the basic points in the course
|Resubmit||Not an official University grade||
If you have failed for any reason to meet the criteria for a Pass
- Biggs, J.B. (1992): A qualitative approach to grading students, HERDSA News, Vol 14, No 3, November 1992: pages 3-6. Also see 'A qualitative approach to grading'.
- Rhodes, T & Finley, A (2013): Using the VALUE Rubrics for improvement of learning and authentic assessment, AACU, Washington DC.
- University of Surrey: Grade descriptors. Gives an example of how one university seeks to clarify how it distinguishes between different grade levels in its undergraduate programs – in this case using a ten step scale from 0-10 to 90-100
- University of Brighton: University marking/grading descriptors. Gives an example of how another university seeks to distinguish between different grade levels in its undergraduate programs – in this case using a five step scale from 0-20 to 80-100.
- University of Edinburgh: Grade descriptors. Provides an example of another, more succinct approach to clarifying grade descriptors.