A Model of Collaborative Rubric Construction: Lecturers and Students Learning in Partnership

Maria T. Northcote, Avondale College of Higher Education
Beverly Christian, Avondale College of Higher Education
Peter W. Kilgour, Avondale College of Higher Education
Carolyn Rickett, Avondale College of Higher Education
Wendy Jackson, Avondale College of Higher Education
John Seddon, Avondale College of Higher Education

Used by permission: Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) and the author(s).



Traditionally, decisions about assessment processes in higher education have been the domain of the lecturer or the course designer. However, university educators have been challenged to partner with students in the early stages of assessment design (Boud & Molloy, 2013). By engaging students in a collaborative process with their university teachers to prepare and create assessment guidelines and rubrics, there is a greater potential for students to take ownership of and be accountable for their own learning.


The aim of the research project was to investigate the innovative and collaborative use of assessment rubrics, in partnership between students and academic staff, in order to develop a model of collaborative rubric practice for application in higher education contexts which includes guidelines on rubric co-construction processes that engage both students and teachers.

The project was conducted across six cohorts of undergraduate students in three higher education institutions and their teachers from five different disciplines and degree levels. The varied contexts provided a range of settings, each of which represented multiple cases to explore across multiple sites.


The project approach adopted a four-phase, mixed-method design across a two-year period, which included a systematic literature review, use of the Delphi technique and multi-site case studies. Students and teachers provided feedback about rubric co-construction processes via questionnaires, interviews and focus groups.


The teaching-learning partnership established by the rubric co-construction initiative may present some challenges and changes to traditional assessment processes, especially in relation to issues such as pre-semester planning of course documentation, sharing the responsibility of assessment design between teachers and students and negotiating with groups of students about assessment and rubric design. Because rubric co-construction does represent a change in the way assessment rubrics are typically designed, the practical ramifications of this collaborative example of curriculum design may introduce institutional challenges that need consideration. However, the initiative also presents opportunities for developing a shared understanding by teachers and students about the purpose of assessment and the quality of learning in higher education.


By the end of this Showcase presentation, the participants will be familiar with a set of research-informed recommendations to engage students and academic staff in the collaborative process of designing and using assessment rubrics to promote learning. Participants will also be provided with details of how to access the project’s website, Owning the rubric, which includes the Model of Collaborative Rubric Construction and Use.