PrinciplesMethodsRubricsClassroom AssessmentClassroom Research

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Subjective vs. Objective Assessment

Rubrics also have a special value in structuring and legitimating the subjective component of the instructor's assessment of student work. Subjective assessment draws upon the instructor's professionally developed awareness of quality in academic or other work. This may be essential for assessing with validity, because some outcomes require sensitivity to context and thus cannot be assessed in a fixed way across contexts. Objective assessment, in contrast, relies on quantitative scales that could apply to description of student work or performance.

Objective assessment has the virtue of being reliable and the reputation of being fair, while subjective assessment is often assumed to be unstable or biased. Hence, instructors often prefer to rely on objective assessment as a basis for grading.

Some criteria of achievement, such as complex thinking and contextually-sensitive performance, cannot really be measured with validity by objective ratings; valid assessment of such qualities requires the developed subjective awareness of an experienced professional. Hence the challenge is to give subjective assessments more reliability.

Development and use of a rubric can increase reliability in subjective assessment. When translating your grading policy into specific assignments, you want to ground your subjective judgment in a rubric that is consistent with your general criteria and also clear enough for students to understand it, perhaps with feedback and chances to apply it themselves.

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