In-text and rubric-referenced feedback: Differences in focus, level, and function

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Rubrics are often used as tools for criteria-based assessments. Although students indicate that they appreciate comments given as feedback which make reference to the rubric and provided in addition to it, there is little information on how this type of feedback actually differs from in-text comments with respect to focus, level, and function of the feedback. The focus refers to three major questions in evaluating students’ understanding of information: Where am I going? How am I going? and Where to next? That is, feedup, feedback, feedforward. The level refers to the level at which feedback is directed. That is, the level of task performance, the level of the process of understanding how to do a task, the regulatory or metacognitive process level, and/or the self or personal level. Finally, the function refers to the type of content of the feedback. For example, feedback can be a question, suggestion, or correction. More information on this issue could better inform the decisions on how to provide written feedback to students on written coursework/assignments. The study described in this article gathered data from almost 1000 feedback instances. The results revealed that about two-thirds of the feedback instances were provided in-text and about one-third were comments which made reference to the rubric and were provided in addition to it. The results show that comments in both modalities are overrepresented by feedback at the task level, but that comments which made reference to the rubric and provided in addition to it contain somewhat more feedforward and process-related comments. The largest differences were found in the function of feedback. Whereas in-text comments ask for clarifications, provide corrections, and ask questions, written comments which made reference to the rubric and are provided in addition to it include mainly affirmations, argumentations, and suggestions. Implications for practitioners are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages13
JournalActive Learning in Higher Education
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Jun 2019


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