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


Forethought stage guiding students to set goals



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Using rubrics in student self-assessment

Forethought stage guiding students to set goals
The students perceived the rubric as an explicit and comprehensive guide at the forethought stage, which makes them well aware of what they were expected to achieve regarding both specific EFL writing tasks and long-term EFL writing development, so that they could set individualistic goals for EFL writing and plan their approach to the writing tasks. For example, a student noted that:
The highest level of performance described in the rubric is the goal that I am supposed to reach. In that sense, the rubric and the exemplars used to illustrate it serve as a clear guide about what a good piece of writing looks like. After having used it once or twice in self-assessment, I would bear the criteria and their descriptions in mind before writing and try to realize those goals when I write. (Student 17, reflective journal)
The rubric’s facilitative role in guiding students goal-setting is not only manifest in the forethought stage but also demonstrated by the students expending their efforts in other learning activities. For example, another student noted that:
When I read other English materials, I would try to workout the ways the rubric’s criteria are realized in those materials and how I can draw on them to improve my own writing. This is particularly true for content development, vocabulary use and sentence structures. (Student 26, reflective journal)
In other words, the rubric was regarded by the students as a roadmap clarifying the highest levels expected in their writing performance and orientating their efforts to those levels of performance.
Performance stage cultivating students self-monitoring habits
At the performance stage, the rubric is reported to help foster students development of self- monitoring habits and/or abilities, which is illustrated by students using the rubric to track the processes of writing. For instance:
Before I knew the rubric, my writing always drifted to wherever my stream of thought flowed. I did not have the habit of checking what I wrote during writing. However, after having become familiar with the rubric, I would consciously guard my thought and practices against its requirements when I write. More specifically, I would see whether I have written an explicit thesis statement in the introductory paragraph, whether there is a topic sentence at the beginning of each body paragraph, and whether the topic sentences have echoed the thesis statement, etc. (Mary, interview data)
Likewise, students also mentioned how the use of rubric helped them avoid making mistakes of language use at the performance stage:
The rubric functions like an alarm when I write. Because of it, I would be especially careful of any mistake of language use and mechanics, such as tense, number and spelling. As a result, there are fewer mistakes in those aspects in my drafts. (Student 39, reflective journal)
It can be seen that the rubric was perceived as helpful for cultivating students self-monitoring habits and improving their alertness towards with the problems with EFL writing at the performance stage.

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