Mel’s been introducing us to a variety of rubric formats (long-form, simple, single-point). In this short post, I’d like to talk about using checklists for assessment purposes. I’ll explain the main differences between checklists and rubrics, along with some of the benefits and drawbacks of using a checklist rather than a rubric. In the next few newsletters, I’ll expand on this introduction, sharing examples of good/better/best checklists and showing you how to build checklists right inside of your Moodle assignments.
I think it’s helpful to think of all of the various assessment strategies as individual pieces of gear in my backpack. I use the best tool to get the job done – sometimes it’s a rubric, sometimes it’s a checklist, sometimes it’s a straight-up point system with some feedback. The point is, as you know, we don’t always have to use the same strategy. Like they keep telling me in my doctorate program, it’s all about fitness of purpose.
What’s a Grading Checklist?
Like your grocery list, a grading checklist contains a series of elements that are required components of an assessment. Typically, I like to assign one mark to each element of the checklist. Students either did or did not include those elements, either earning or not earning the associated marks. Thus checklists are best utilized when you can objectively observe the presence or absence of specific elements of the learner’s performance or product. It’s basically a series of yes / no, present / absent, complete / incomplete judgements.
I would argue that students generally have an easier time self-assessing using a checklist as opposed to a rubric. I mandate that students submit a self-assessment for each assignment. The self-assessments simply repeat my scoring criteria, offering students one last chance to check their work against my expectations prior to submitting their assignment.
I tend to phrase my checklist items as a series of questions rather than statements. Students who are self-evaluating, and educators who are assessing, simply have to ask themselves “did the student do the thing?” If yes, check it off, give the mark. If no, don’t check it off, don’t give the mark, leave some constructive feedback. I like the simplicity.
Checklists are also helpful when the assignment must be completed in a linear manner. Checklists can walk students through that process step-by-step, functioning both as a guide to learning as well as an evaluation tool.
Since checklists are best suited to binary yes/no answers, if you’re hoping to capture more nuance, perhaps various degrees of competency, quality, or any kind of rating scale, you’ll likely be better served by a rubric.
Checklists on their own don’t tell learners much if anything about how they can improve their performance. They just highlight performance gaps. I would strongly encourage you to pair your checklist with qualitative feedback that addresses the specific learning needs of each student.