Efficient Assessment: Aligning Grading Rubrics with WSU Learning Goals in UCORE [CAPS] Courses

UCORE Capstone [CAPS] courses bring opportunities for integration, application, and closure to the undergraduate experience. In place since 2015, [CAPS] Assessment Reporting for UCORE is intended to gauge student learning achievement on the outcomes of the UCORE general education program as students near graduation. [CAPS] courses are required to advance student learning outcomes associated with four of WSU’s Learning Goals (Critical and Creative Thinking, Integrative Learning, Information Literacy, and Written Communication). In addition, [CAPS] courses may advance additional applicable learning outcomes associated with Quantitative Reasoning, Scientific Literacy, Diversity, and/or Oral Communication as appropriate to the course. This spotlight offers insight into a tested, efficient approach to assessment of student learning achievement in a UCORE Capstone [CAPS] course through grading rubric alignment.

NEUROSCI 490: Senior Project is a UCORE [CAPS] course where seniors majors demonstrate skills and knowledge in final oral presentations of their semester-long research projects. Worth 20% of the course grade, these presentations also provide direct assessment of student performance on the learning outcomes of the UCORE general education program for [CAPS] Assessment Reporting for UCORE. Dr. Samantha Gizerian, who teaches this course, has designed a grading rubric and the following three-step process to streamline the production of senior-level achievement data for [CAPS] Assessment Reporting for UCORE.

1. Align the Grading Rubric Traits with the Learning Goals/Outcomes

A grading rubric with 13 traits is used to score the students’ final oral presentations and determine each student’s grade on the assignment. For [CAPS] Assessment Reporting for UCORE, Dr. Gizerian developed a crosswalk that aligns specific traits on the grading rubric with the WSU Learning Goals students demonstrate in her assignment.

Crosswalk Aligning WSU Learning Goals and Grading Rubric Traits (Partial List)

WSU Learning GoalGrading Rubric Trait
Critical ThinkingStudent Position: Clearly articulates or proposes the position (perspective, thesis, hypothesis, idea, or claim) inspiring the project
Critical ThinkingStudent Position: Analyze complexity of the position, synthesize other points of view, and evaluate the project’s limitations
Critical ThinkingConclusion/Outcome: Illustrates the significance and analyzes the implications of conclusion/outcome
Integrative LearningProcess/Method: Clearly identifies a process to identify an end product
Integrative LearningConclusion/Outcome: Integrates knowledge across disciplines to effectively support the conclusion / outcome
Information LiteracyConclusion/Outcome: Articulate & effectively defend conclusion / outcome with evidence (data, discoveries, theories)
Oral CommunicationPresenter: Engages audience actively and effectively
Oral CommunicationPresenter: Communicate skillfully about the project

2. Determine Levels of Learning Goal/Outcome Achievement Based on Possible Grading Rubric Scores

As part of [CAPS] Assessment Reporting for UCORE, [CAPS] instructors report what percentage of their students exceed expectations, meet expectations, partially meet expectations, or do not meet expectations on each learning outcome. Dr. Gizerian’s second step was to review her grading rubric traits, determine the maximum possible scores for each WSU Learning Goal, and then set the range of scores that represent each level of achievement for UCORE’s [CAPS] Assessment Reporting.

Levels of WSU Learning Goal Achievement Based on Grading Rubric Scores (Partial List)

WSU Learning Goal and Maximum Score Possible on Grading RubricLevel of Achievement for UCORE'S [CAPS] Assessment
Does Not Meet ExpectationsPartially Meets ExpectationsMeets ExpectationsExceeds Expectations
Critical Thinking
(24 pts total)
Integrative Learning
(20 pts total)
Information Literacy
(8 pts total)
Oral Communication
(24 pts total)

3. Tally Grading Rubric Scores to Produce Assessment Data for UCORE’s [CAPS] Reporting

Finally, Dr. Gizerian tallied grading rubric scores for each WSU Learning Goal to determine the percentage of students that are exceeding, meeting, partially meeting, or not meeting expectations for [CAPS] Assessment Reporting for UCORE. With the first two steps in place, this becomes a quick process with the use of a spreadsheet. It’s also a process and tool she can reuse each semester to efficiently produce data for UCORE’s [CAPS] Assessment Reporting.

Tallied Grading Rubric Scores for UCORE’s [CAPS] Assessment (Partial List with Mock Data)

WSU Learning Goal% (#) of students
Does Not Meet ExpectationsPartially Meets ExpectationsMeets ExpectationsExceeds ExpectationsTotal
Critical Thinking0%
Integrative Learning4%
Information Literacy0%
Oral Communication4%

Focusing on the final student presentations for most of her UCORE’s [CAPS] Assessment Reporting has proven a manageable approach. Gizerian explained, “I don’t try to collect data from all assignments in the course, so that assessment doesn’t take up too much time. The final presentation is where students pull things together, from prior assignments scaffolded throughout the semester.”

Samantha Gizerian.Aligning grading rubrics and learning goals/outcomes is a flexible approach that can be used with a variety of assignments. To generate assessment data on Written Communication for UCORE’s [CAPS] Assessment Reporting, Dr. Gizerian applied the same three-step process to her grading rubric for the research project papers to determine the percentage of students that exceeded, met, partially met, or did not meet expectations on Written Communication.

In addition to being a UCORE-designated [CAPS] course, NEUROSCI 490 also serves as a culminating course for Neuroscience majors, and, as a result, also contributes data to program assessment for the BS in Neuroscience. A similar crosswalk has been developed to align the grading rubric traits with program-level student learning outcomes for the BS in Neuroscience, allowing the Neuroscience program to efficiently collect assessment data for senior majors in a similar manner.

“It was gratifying to line up the rubric traits, the Neuroscience program learning outcomes, UCORE’s [CAPS] learning outcomes, and WSU’s Learning Goals – and to see how the pieces aligned,” Gizerian noted. “Because NEUROSCI 490 is our culminating course for senior majors, the rubric descriptors and scores are aimed at meeting expectations for graduating seniors, so developing the crosswalks and levels of achievement was straightforward.” She added, “For me, it’s important to be able to show that these are learning outcomes we’re actually assessing.”

For more information about UCORE’s [CAPS] Assessment reporting Requirement, see the UCORE Key Assessment webpage for [CAPS] Assessment.