Framing assessment across degrees with the RSD: HERDSA in HK:

In a standard three-year degree, students encounter somewhere between 20 and 70 assignments, depending on discipline and university, from which they may receive some sort of feedback. How effectively can students see that these individual assignments fit together into a forest of learning?

Recent criticisms of assessment rubrics justifiably point out their problems, such as not providing feedback in a form that students use, and making students reliant on assessors rather than becoming increasingly autonomous learners, as noted by authors including Boud and Sadler. However, these problems are not necessarily endemic to rubrics, but rather to the current idiosyncratic use of rubrics providing feedback that is ‘too specific to a single episode of assessment rather than generalisable to the learning experience as a whole’ (Adcroft, 2011).

In our Office of Learning and Teaching project that looked at the benefits of using the six facets of the Research Skill Development framework ( as a common frame for assessment criteria across multiple and diverse assignments in a variety of courses across degrees. The efficacy of this approach was determined through interviews with 50 graduates, about one year after completing one of five undergraduate degrees. The use of the RSD facets in this way enabled many students to make connections between otherwise unrelated assessments and was perceived by graduates to be helpful in the development of attributes needed by them in a globalised world. A caveat is that RSD-framed rubrics are like ‘frozen conversations’ that need the warmth of human interaction to defrost them.

Visit the RSD website at to see a range of RSD-informed rubrics, under ‘Discipline examples’ that show RSD framing in a variety of contexts.

What role could the RSD play in your programs assessments, course by course? Please leave a comment.