Assessing by design—constructing a marking guide


  • Philip MacKinnon Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell, VIC 3124, Australia
  • Alan Hayes Institute for Health and Sport (IHeS), Victoria University, Footscray, VIC 3011, Australia
  • Kathy Tangalakis First Year College and Institute for Sustainable Industries & Liveable Cities, Victoria University, Footscray, VIC 3011, Australia


assessment, assessment design, rubric, marking guide, proficiency level descriptors, assessment criteria



Improving assessment is a key aim of the Australian Council of Deans of Science (ACDS). In 2023, it funded workshops to help improve assessment across the sciences, where science educators across Australia worked with assessment experts from the Australian Council of Educational Research and discipline leaders to learn how to write, review and undertake psychometric analysis of assessment items.

Effective marking guides (rubrics) are an essential part of aligning assessment to learning outcomes, showing the performance expectations of an assessment, and demonstrating the objectivity of the assessment’s marking.

Designing and developing marking guides (rubrics) is both an art and a skill. There is literature, but there is no replacement for experience and for adopting a design approach to constructing excellent marking guides.

It is worth spending time on the design and writing of a marking guide as it will likely improve marking both through improved feedback to students, discrimination of performance, reliability and through increasing marking efficiency.


In this session we will work through three stages to develop skills at constructing marking guides:

  1. We will work together to identify the key determinants of a good marking guide. This discussion will be supported by consideration of the literature and of our collective experience.
  2. We will apply those determinants to working collaboratively to develop and refine a marking guide as a group.
  3. We will work in small groups to refine marking guides brought to the workshop by participants.

All are welcome to join us for this workshop. It follows on from the assessment workshops sponsored by the ACDS in 2023 and attended by over thirty academics around Australia.


We encourage participants to bring a marking guide that they would like to improve.