Daily Archives: September 22, 2012

My Rubric and Approach for Peer-Graded Assignments on Coursera

I am not an expert on rubrics. For the first peer-graded assessment in my Coursera Internet History, Technology, and Security my rubric was really poor. This triggered a discussion in the student forums led by a student named Su-Lyn to produce what the students felt would be the ideal rubric. There was several rounds of edits and comments before the students reached their “final” rubric.

I adopted this Rubric for the rest of the peer-graded assignments for the course and it was far superior to the rubric I used in the first assignment.

The mistake I made in the first rubric I built was that I was trying to construct a rubric that ended up with a average of about 8.5 / 10 – but then all the rubrics were too simplistic and no one felt that they could express their assessment appropriately. The grade on that first assignment was 8.85 / 10 with a standard deviation of 1.49 – pretty much exactly as I planned from a numbers perspective – but the students did not like it.

The student-built rubric was a little harsher and but at least it felt expressive when evaluating basic expository writing – so students assessing each other’s work felt like what they were communicating in their grading was *useful*.

The first peer-graded assignment that used the student-built rubric had a range of -6.0 – 10.0 with an average of 7.15 and a standard deviation of 2.83. Clearly the second rubric was far more expressive.

I don’t like a mean of 7.15 for a straight scale graded course. So I would need to come up with a formula that mapped from the raw score to the actual score. I punted on any formula and just made the peer grading assignments “extra credit” – this meant that students were going to have to fight a little to get those extra points and that felt right to me. If you were going to the the extra credit – you better do some good writing – because if you just cut and pasted Wikipedia in – you would get a quick -6. Negative scores will be changed to zeros – people should not lose points on extra credit.

The last little bit of data is that 5808 students took the first (bad) required peer-graded assignment, 758 students took the second optional assignment and 641 took the third optional assignment. Interestingly the data on the third assignment was a range of -2 – 10 with a mean of 7.99 and a standard deviation of 2.35. I would interpret the drop in the number of students between the second and third assignments as well as the change in range and to mean that students who did badly on the first assignment just gave up and did not submit the second assignment.

This supports my instinct that perhaps in a course like mine, writing needs to be optional / extra credit.

Well, enough of the prelude – on to the question and rubric.

My Question and Rubric

Question: What element of Internet History prior to 2003 would you add to the History of the Internet as described in this course and where would it fit in the course? Draw from the course material and support with additional materials as necessary.

Essay length: 500-1000 words not including references. A separate space for references will be provided – only use this space for references (i.e. don’t continue your essay in this space). There is no specific citation format. While there is no minimum nor maximum required references, most essays will have somewhere between two and five references. If your references are web sites use the URL – if the references are papers include enough information to identify the source using APA http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ format. Graders will not take points off for syntax errors in references, but they are welcome to suggest how the syntax of references can be improved.

While we would like your answers to be well written, given the number of different languages in the course, graders will **not** take points off for structural mistakes like grammar or punctuation. Graders may *comment* on how to improve the writing technique – but the grade will be based on the quality of the ideas in the answers and how well thought out the arguments are that support those ideas. As graders, please make your comments constructive and helpful and focused on improving learning.

Plagiarism: Looking for plagiarism should *not* be your primary purpose for peer graders. The purpose of the plagiarism deduction rubric is to give graders a way to note when plagiarism is clear and obvious. If you are taking points off from plagiarism, include the source of the material you consider to have been copied in your comments. Please do not add any editorial comments or value judgements about the author or plagiarism in your comments. Be respectful in your comments and make sure to focus on making this a learning experience for the author.

And above all, while the purpose of peer-grading is to assign an accurate score – we are all here to learn. Graders should approach weak or flawed essays as situations where they can help the essay author learn through useful and constructive comments. Our prime directive is to teach each other – within that directive we also assign score.


Interest (4 points): Is the answer interesting to read? Did the answer make you think? Did you learn something from the answer?
0 – No
2 – Somewhat
4 – Yes

Relevance (2 points): Does the essay answer the question? Is the answer on-topic?
0 – No
1 – Somewhat
2 – Yes

Analysis (2 points): Are the ideas logical and communicated clearly? Are the arguments reasonable / plausible? Does the analysis go beyond simply stating the obvious?
0 – No
1 – Somewhat
2 – Yes

Evidence (2 points): Does the essay use good examples? Are the arguments well-supported by facts? Does the essay cite its sources?
0 – No
1 – Somewhat
2 – Yes

Plagiarism (up to 6 point deduction): Is there is evidence of plagiarism such as simply cutting and pasting all or part of text from another source without citing?
0 – The essay did not have any evidence of plagiarism
-3 – A portion of the answer was literal text from another source
-6 – The entire essay was taken from another source