Academic journal article International Education Studies

Assessing and Supporting Argumentation with Online Rubrics

Academic journal article International Education Studies

Assessing and Supporting Argumentation with Online Rubrics

Article excerpt


Writing and assessing arguments are important skills and there is evidence that using rubrics to assess the arguments of others can help students write better arguments. Thus, this study investigated whether students were able to write better arguments after using rubrics to assess the written arguments by peers. Students in 4 secondary 4 classes at a publicly funded Hong Kong high school used an online assessment system to assess the arguments of peers for one year. Students first used a rubric to assess arguments along four dimensions: claims, evidence, reasoning, and application of knowledge. Then they compared their assessments with assessments by their teachers using the same rubrics. Data included student-teacher agreements on rubric dimensions, students' evaluation comments, and their perceptions of the assessment activity. Results indicated that the quality of students' written arguments could be predicted based on the number of student-teacher agreements on the rubrics dimension of evidence and on the number of students comments identifying problems and reflecting on assessment. This study shows that providing students with rubrics for assessing the written arguments of peers can lead them to write better arguments.

Keywords: rubric based assessment, assessing argument, argumentation model, online assessment, peer assessment, peer feedback

1. Introduction

Being able to write and to assess arguments competently is important in school for constructing and evaluating knowledge and in daily life for exercising the rights and duties of responsible citizenship. Although, it is recognized that the skills involved in effective argumentation ought to be taught in school (Driver, Newton, & Osborne, 2000; Nussbaum, 2002) they rarely are at least in any systematic way. This is in part because teachers have seldom been taught to do so. It is therefore not a surprise that many students (Knudson, 1992), including many recent high school graduates are unable to competently produce and assess arguments (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1998; National Science Board, 2006).

Educational researchers have traditionally focused on arguments in math and the natural sciences (Aberdein, 2005; Erduran, 2007), more recently they have begun focusing on arguments in the social sciences and the humanities (Larson, Britt, & Kurby, 2009). Although, many studies have examined how students construct arguments (Chang & Chiu, 2008; Driver, et al., 2000; Li & Lim, 2008; Wu & Tsai, 2007), few have looked at how they assess them (Hagler & Brem, 2008; Kuhn, 2005; Larson, et al., 2009; Lu & Lajoie, 2008; Sadler, 2004) despite evidence that doing so enhances learning by involving students more deeply in the learning process (Gielen, Peeters, Dochy, Onghena, & Struyven, 2009; Goldstein, Crowell, & Kuhn, 2009). Further, few studies have focused on the use of rubrics in assessing arguments.

Students are now able to assess the work of peers online which, unlike face-to-face assessment, allows them greater freedom to review their own feedback and to compare it with teacher feedback. Further, online systems allow teachers to construct rubrics for students use in assessing arguments. Thus, the students in this study used an online assessment system and teacher generated rubrics to evaluate the written arguments of peers and then to compare their assessments with those of their teachers. They also had opportunities both to reflect on their assessment experiences and to compare their own written arguments with those of their peers. The study sought to determine whether students' online peer assessment activities and reflections lead them to write better arguments.

2. Literature Review

Research has demonstrated that the development of argumentation skills can promote productive thinking (Nussbaum, Winsor, Aqui, & Poliquin, 2007), reasoning (Hahn & Oaksford, 2007; Lajoie, Greer, Munsie, Wilkie, Guerrera, & Aleong, 1995), problem solving (Chiu, 2008), decision making (Karacapilidis & Papadias, 2001; Lu & Lajoie, 2008) and knowledge construction (Jamaludin, Chee, & Ho, 2009). …

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