Teaching & Learning


Welcome to good assessment practices at UTAS

This site provides support to academic staff in good assessment practices. A focus of the site is to assist academic staff in the implementation of criterion-referenced assessment (CRA), as endorsed by University Senate in 2007. The content of this site (except for 'Moderation of results in a CRA process') was developed by Moira Cordiner (TILT, UTAS) between 2009 and 2011. The collaboration of staff in co-developing the criteria sheets and providing feedback on some of the other content is warmly acknowledged.

Assessment is an integral component of teaching and learning. It refers to all processes employed by academic staff to make judgments about the achievement of students in units of study and over a course of study. These processes include making decisions about what is relevant evidence for a particular purpose, how to collect and interpret the evidence and how to communicate it to intended users (students, parents, university administrators, etc) (Harlen, 2005, p207).

Processes include: devising assessment tasks; writing criteria sheets based on learning outcomes; judging students' achievement on those assessment tasks; providing feedback to students; and determining grades.

Harlen, W. (2005). Teachers' summative practices and assessment for learning – tensions and synergies. The Curriculum Journal, 16(2), 207 – 223

gag-coverThe Good Assessment Guide 2011 (PDF) is a revision of the 2007 edition and is provided to complement this website. Throughout the document there are hotlinks to relevant pages. The Guide contains a sample of the material on the site, so by necessity, there is some duplication, for example, the webpage 'How do I grade with criteria sheets' is reproduced in full, but only a small number of criteria sheets are included.

What is CRA?

Criteria-referenced assessment is the process of evaluating (and grading) the learning of students against a set of pre-specified qualities or criteria, without reference to the achievement of others. (adapted from Brown, 1998 & Harvey, 2004)

The pre-specified qualities or criteria are what students have to do during assessment in order to demonstrate that they have achieved the learning outcomes. How well they do this is described at different levels – these are standards. Thus criterion-referenced assessment is assessment that has standards that are 'referenced' to criteria. When teachers award a grade for a unit (subject) they judge the extent to which the evidence of learning provided by the student (in response to assessment tasks) meets each of the criteria and the described standards at a particular level (such as Distinction, Pass, etc).

Sometimes these standards are referred to as 'level descriptions'. Criteria and standards are set out in criteria sheets (rubrics) and given to students in advance of the assessment. When CRA is implemented well, teaching, learning and assessment is aligned and judgments about students' achievements are more valid and reliable.

See What's in it for staff and What's in it for students

Brown, S. (1998). Criterion-referenced assessment: what role for research. In Black, H. & Dockerell, W. New Developments in Educational Assessment. British Journal of Educational Psychology, Monograph Series No. 3, 1-14.

Harvey, L. (2004). Analytic Quality Glossary. Accessed 8 October, 2008 from http://www.qualityresearchinternational.com/glossary/#c

Examples of criteria sheets (rubrics)

The examples of criteria sheets on this site have been developed by academics staff working with an academic staff developer from TILT (the Tasmanian Institute of Learning & Teaching). Some of the sheets have been developed at other universities with this staff developer, and are used with permission. All the examples serve as starting points and sources of ideas in developing your own criteria sheets. These sheets illustrate the following principles of best practice.

Best practice in writing criteria sheets

A criteria sheet describes the evidence you expect in students' responses to assessment tasks at each standard or level. This evidence can be about the process that students use, the product they create/produce during the process or both the process and the product (note that 'process' here can be singular or plural depending on the discipline and task). A well developed criteria sheet has the following characteristics:

  • it has five standards - four passing grades and one failing grade
  • the standards are HD, DN, CR, PP, NN. Not, for example, 'novice' to 'expert', 'extremely competent' to 'inept', 'A – E' or 100% - 0%.
  • the standards descriptors are concise verbal descriptions not single words, such as 'excellent' and are not excessively negative at the lower standards (see Write descriptors, step 5, part 4)
  • the middle of each standard is what is described - that is, the typical HD, the typical NN not the minimum of each range
  • it is about one to two pages in length
  • the layout is in a readable font and uncluttered
  • only the important expected features in the student response at each standard are described, not the minutiae.

Download the components (Word 38KB) of a criteria sheet and a template (Word 37KB).

Developing and re-developing criteria sheets with well-written standards descriptors, is a part of professional reflective practice. Please be reassured that no criteria sheet is ever 'perfect' - there will always be assessors or students who interpret them differently despite your best efforts. With practice, you will improve the clarity of your criteria sheets and take less time to construct them. Students need practice using the sheets to grade examples of responses to assessment tasks so that can develop self evaluative expertise.

Constructing criteria sheets

For practical advice and examples, see how to write criteria sheets and word banks.


For assistance contact the TILT.Enquiries@utas.edu.au