Using rubrics in student self-assessment: student perceptions in the English as a foreign language writing context



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Using rubrics in student self-assessment

Methodology
Context of the study
The present study was conducted in a week EFL writing course at a Chinese university. The teacher of the writing course is also the researcher of the present study, which offers a vantage point of gaining an insider’s understandings of students perceived rubric use. The writing course covers the teaching of descriptive, narrative and expository writing. Self, peer and teacher assessment are integral parts of the course. As expository writing is the main part of the curriculum, the present study investigates students perceptions of rubric use in their self-assessment of expository writing only.
Participants
Eighty students (24 male and 56 female) from 3 intact classes at a Chinese university participated in the study. Six of them (2 male and 4 female) were purposively chosen as the case study informants based on their English proficiency, ability to verbalise their thinking and willingness and availability to participate. Purposive sampling was used because it would enable detailed exploration and understanding of the central themes and puzzles which the researcher wishes to study (Ritche and Lewis
2003
, Table
1
presents the six students profile, with pseudonyms used for anonymity purposes.
Table 1.
case study students profile.
Student name
Gender
Age
English proficiency
Kelvin male
20
intermediate cathy
Female
21
intermediate eason male intermediate mary
Female
20
High
Jane Female
20
intermediate
Kate
Female
20
intermediate


4 W. WANG
Materials and instruments
Please contact the author for copies of the instruments used.
A teacher-tailored rubric and its training manual
All the teachers of the same course collaboratively adapted the rubric based on the ESL Composition
Profile developed by Jacobs et al. (
1981
). The rubric, which was used in self, peer and teacher assessment, was shared with the students in the first class of the EFL writing course.
Being the most widely used rubric for English as a second/foreign language writing (Janssen, Meier, and Trace
2015
), the profile’s five categories of evaluative criteria closely match the writing course’s curriculum goals. The teachers revised the rubric in two aspects to better align it with the curriculum goals. Firstly, the Content and Organisation categories were elucidated to denote the importance of using concrete examples to support topic sentences and develop the thesis statement. Secondly, to help students realise the equally important status of all five aspects of writing, the same point score range was assigned to all the five categories of writing.
To help students grasp the rubric, the teachers also collaboratively designed a Chinese training manual to illustrate its application, which includes six exemplars drawn from previous students work representing differing levels of writing proficiency. Annotations and comments were provided to illustrate the practice of feedback giving.

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