[Portfolio] [Management] A manifesto for Grading and Rating in Sakai

Sean Keesler sean.keesler at threecanoes.com
Tue Oct 20 07:01:14 PDT 2009

One of the things that are crucial to making meaning out of the
assessment process (and the grades/ratings that are the record of that
process) are sets of rubrics that document HOW rating/grading should
be done or has been done.

How you do or DO NOT manage and/or mandate the application of rubrics
to the assessment of student work is a local decision that may vary
within and amongst faculty members, departments to entire colleges
with the university, but the capability to author, share, modify and
find rubrics suitable for a any one application would seem to me to be
a missing piece of John's manifesto and one that would make the idea
of assessment a core piece of Sakai 3.

It has a lot of impact on the deployment of ePortfolios where multiple
faculty (perhaps from different departments or colleges) could be
asked to blindly assess a collection of student work through their
lens of specialization. Providing guidance for these faculty to HOW to
grade a portfolio gives the entire process more validity.

Rubrics are also a vehicle for a university to articulate how it
differentiates it's standards for excellence from other colleges or
for showing that program X complies with Association Y's expectations.

A while ago I jotted down some different ways that rubrics might be
managed in an LMS.  I believe that issues like the Spellings
Commission Report and the No Child Left Behind fiasco (K12) and so
they may be receiving more attention here than elsewhere. It may be
interesting to see what patterns exist in the community around the
application and use of rubrics.

1. Managed assessments:
Some rubrics are rather specific to (and must be tied to) a particular
assessment item and must be approved by an "assessment coordinator"
for educational QA purposes as part of a larger assessment system
strategy. Changing the assessment/rubric in this case involves more
than just the teacher.

2. Generally reusable (but unchangeable) rubrics
Some rubrics may be general purpose rubrics that are NOT tied to an
assessment, but the dissemination of these approved rubrics may be a
strategy of an institution to push forward an agenda of best practice
for assessment by providing a handy reference library of general
purpose writing, mathematics and science rubrics (for example). While
the choice whether or not to use one of these "off the shelf" rubrics
(and which one) is left to the teacher, providing some information to
the teacher about the schools expectations of its students at
different stages (and perhaps suggesting an appropriate rubric for
this grade level/stage of development) would make this service more

3. Reusable rubric templates:
Similar to the above, but the library of "off the shelf" rubrics are
merely starting points. There is not a priority to ensure that
everyone is doing assessment the exact same way. When a teacher uses
one of these rubrics, they can easily edit the performance indicators
to suit their needs and create a new rubric, just for their new
assignment. (Rubristar approach)

4. Sharing of rubrics:
This is a bottom up approach to establishing "best practice". As the
teachers create their own rubrics against goals, they have the
opportunity to publish them as part of the "reusable" library so other
teachers can use/edit/republish them. (Someone?)

Sean Keesler
130 Academy Street
Manlius, New York 13104 USA
sean.keesler at threecanoes.com

On Fri, Oct 16, 2009 at 11:07 AM, Noah Botimer <botimer at umich.edu> wrote:
> Hello John,
> Thank you for the rather comprehensive narrative. I believe that these are
> important for the archives as we change our ideas and software over time.
> They leave a better historical record of our state of mind at any given
> point than a pile of JIRA tickets. Our successive approximation is better
> validated when we have a record of these richer "data" points.
> Now, more on task...
> This is a fair account from my perspective, and is especially important in
> that it carves out a first-class place for two things that have been
> historical weaknesses:
>  1. The ability to treat various artifacts individually and in collections,
> consistently, across types of "stuff" and activity (e.g., reflection vs.
> feedback vs. grading)
>  2. The ability to retrieve meaningful performance (or other) data in detail
> and aggregate, consistently, and without extensive one-off programming
> Interestingly enough, these two areas are what I've spent four years working
> on -- so I suppose it's not surprising that I call them out. I mention them
> as weaknesses from my experience. It has been difficult to combine
> assignment information with student-crafted presentation. It has been
> difficult to combine course-based (assignment, quiz, etc.) data and
> program-based activity (annual review, capstone, student teaching
> performance) and map them to curricular goals and reports...
> Please do not take my comments as complaints of where we are. What is more
> important is that I see this narrative as recognizing these activities not,
> as we have, as things that can be bolted on post-construction but, rather,
> as shaping the core provisions of a meaningful academic and collaborative
> platform. We are, as a community, much more aware of our successes and
> shortfalls. This, I feel, is very healthy and inspiring.
> I believe this discussion is going in the right direction and sincerely hope
> that we can find the energy to support it.
> Thanks,
> -Noah
> On Oct 16, 2009, at 6:02 AM, John Norman wrote:
> I have collected my thoughts around grading and rating in Sakai. I offer
> them now partly because I feel ready, partly because there are open
> questions about Gradebook in Sakai 3 and partly because we have just had a
> discussion in which I suggest it is hard to break things out of a coherent
> Sakai 3 project. If accepted as is, this represents a logical area of
> activity than can readily be envisioned as a standalone activity - maybe
> even a separate product.
> First of all I'd like to suggest that grading is a subset of a general
> rating and feedback activity. Many artifacts can be rated, from instructor
> performance during a course (course evaluation), through quality of a
> teaching asset or exercise (rating) to assessing the quality of a student
> portfolio (feedback) and assessing the performance of a student on an
> assignment or test (grading). The common pattern is: an artifact is produced
> by one individual (or group) and some value judgement is recorded by one or
> more other people.
> The process by which an artifact is judged can be simple or complex. Complex
> processes include multi-stage workflows where raw scores are obtained by one
> process and raw scores moderated to a final grade by another process. I see
> plagiarism detection as one particular wrinkle in such a workflow.
> I suggest that (nearly) everything in Sakai should be ratable/gradable. I
> will refer to the ratable/gradable elements as "artifacts" to indicate that
> they may not be 'technical elements' but some aggregation of technical
> elements that makes sense for rating/grading purposes. Moreover, we should
> not forget that some of the artifacts that are rated/graded may not be
> electronic and the 'artifact' may be a proxy for some real world activity or
> output that cannot be captured electronically.
> The activity of rating/grading is essentially a human judgement. Tests and
> quizzes represent a subset of this situation where the human codifies their
> judgement into rules applied by the testing engine and the test engine
> automates the application of scores. The Quiz with the student answers
> represents the artifact and the raw scores and/or processed grade represents
> the judgement. The people involved in rating/grading can be anyone:
> students, teachers, peers.
> The artifact to be rated or graded may not be stable over time, in which
> case a 'snapshot' of some kind is desirable for audit purposes. An example
> might be the state of my personal portfolio pages on the first day of May,
> when they are declared to be assessed. I may wish to continue maintaining
> the pages after the assessment, but their status at the time of assessing is
> worth recording. A different example might be my performance in a piece of
> drama. I have no idea how this would be recorded in the real world, but I
> imagine that the grader might write down some critique/commentary and then
> assign a grade. The critique/commentary would become the recorded artifact
> (in some places there might be a video recording but I don't assume that)
> and separately there would be a grade/score/rating. Teacher performance in
> class evaluated by students is not far from this model. The questions in the
> evaluation form might be considered the rubric for the teachers performance.
> In this world, we would want a flexible reporting platform that allows grade
> information (including an archive of artifact snapshots) to be collected and
> analysed (and sometimes further processed). I suggest we think of using
> something like BIRT to create this flexible reporting environment and then
> consider certain predefined views of the data and derived reports from the
> data as the essence of "GradeBook" functionality. i.e. "GradeBook" is a
> subset of functionality from a powerful reporting environment. Ultimately
> "the official record" will need to be updated.
> I think it is really important to anticipate that some of the artifacts to
> be graded may come from outside Sakai and Sakai needs to be able to accept
> artifacts for grading and also to accept graded artifacts for inclusion in
> reporting. I see two main implementation options for Sakai
> 1. A Sakai service with published external entry points (Moodle/Mahara
> integration would be an example)
> 2. A new Sakai 'product' which would be an institutional grading/rating
> service that receives artifacts from a number of places (including the Sakai
> Course Management System) and manages the grading/rating workflow into a
> flexible reporting system that creates a complete record for an individual
> and allows this information to be displayed in a number of places (including
> Sakai CMS)
> A strong attraction of the second model is that it fits with the idea that
> assessing performance is a core competence of the institution that preceded
> and will survive the CMS, but which is unlikely to be developed for us by
> the commercial world. It could also represent a shared service with a
> student information system.
> Having set out my manifesto, it is interesting to consider what the product
> council might do with it. From my personal perspective it would be great if
> we adopted it as the Sakai manifesto (following review/revision) and called
> for developments to align with it, but there is an open question regarding
> the value of 'adoption' of the manifesto if nobody is interested in
> developing products/code that address the manifesto.
> John
> PS I have forwarded this message that I saw as I came in this morning
> because in my mind it illustrates an early step in the direction of my
> manifesto, although I have taken it much further (perhaps unrecognisably).
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: David Horwitz <david.horwitz at uct.ac.za>
> Date: 16 October 2009 09:29:58 BST
> To: sakai-dev <sakai-dev at collab.sakaiproject.org>,
> production at collab.sakaiproject.org, announcements at collab.sakaiproject.org
> Subject: [Announcements] 2.7 Framework: commons and edu-servise 1.0.0-beta01
> released
> Hi All,
> We're proud to announce the first of 2 framework releases in support of the
> upcoming 2.7 release. The creation of these bundles aims to rationalize our
> dependency tree and enable a more modular approach to Sakai releases.
> Commons 1.0.0-beta01
> The commons package contains common services depended on by a number of
> Sakai tools, but outside the scope of the Kernel. The services included are:
> SakaiPerson Service (profile data)
> Type Service
> privacy service
> archive service
> import service
> The project site can be viewed at:
> http://source.sakaiproject.org/release/common/1.0.0-beta01/
> (Note experimental site no Sakai skins etc.)
> Edu-Services 1.0.0-beta01
> Edu-services contain core shared services that support teaching and learning
> functionality in Sakai. It contains:
> Course management service
> Gradebook service
> Sections service
> The project site can be viewed at:
> http://source.sakaiproject.org/release/edu-services/1.0.0-beta01/
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