Step 6: Assess accordingly

Professors Claire Battershill and Shawna Ross identified that assessing DHSS assignments can be more complex than assessing traditional assignments because there are many different, concurrent, aspects of the assignment that students would engage in. To remedy this complexity, in their book Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom (2017), they advocate for developing clear rubrics for evaluating students’ DHSS work. With a rubric, Battershill and Ross state, you can “check the consistency and objectivity of your judgements, while also showing students where their efforts are best directed to succeed in an assignment” (pp. 130-131). In this way, DHSS rubrics, like all rubrics, help students understand how to meet, even exceed, the expectations you provided for them. Rubrics can provide clear guidelines for what you’re looking for, how much these elements are worth, what “ideal” looks like, what error looks like, and where you will be placing your emphasis during marking.

Battershill and Ross identify that a well-designed DHSS rubric identifies five things:

  1. The evaluation criteria
  2. The numerical grading scheme
  3. The characteristics of work that meets the evaluation criteria
  4. The stakes of error
  5. The role that effort plays in assessment

Mary J. Allen, Professor Emeritus from California State University Bakersfield, created a handout to support professors at Miami-Dade College in rubric writing, which you can find here: “Using Rubrics to Grade, Assess, and Improve Student Learning.” In that document she discusses the process of creating a rubric, and also provides examples of rubrics for writing, critical thinking, oral presentations, collaboration, and more. You can also find sample rubrics she provided to the University of Guam in the document: “Developing and Using Rubrics for Assessing, Grading, and Improving Student Learning” (note: this will open in a Word document).

To see specific rubrics for different elements of DHSS projects, see the links below. Feel free to mix and match elements to customize your own assessment:

Danica Savonick’s article “On Crafting an Assignment Sequence for a Collaborative, Web-Based Final Project in a Composition Course” may be a helpful resource for thinking about these things holistically. Also visit the Dalhousie University Library’s Digital Humanities Project Planning template for a list of managerial, communication, and technical questions that can support students’ progress through their DHSS projects. Finally, Battershill and Ross created a web-enhanced version of their print book Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom with a page on writing rubrics. This page includes links to blog posts about grading in the DH community and discusses other experiential grading methods.

Dr. Shannon Mattern, Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School in New York, has also explored how to evaluate assignments with multiple forms of media and identified the key themes one should use to evaluate these types of students’ projects, which include:

  • Concept & content
  • Concept/content-driven design & technique
  • Transparent, collaborative development, and documentation
  • Academic integrity & openness
  • Review & critique

Under each theme she provided a list of questions that framed the evaluation of that theme. I encourage you to visit her article in the Journal of Digital Humanities to read these questions and follow the links to the community discussion that inspired this work. Note the importance of process in the evaluation themes and questions. Also visit Dalhousie University Library’s Digital Humanities Project Planning template for a list of questions that align with the managerial, communication, and technical competencies that can be developed through DHSS. Both resources emphasize the experiential aspect of students’ DHSS assignments, which is a key aspect of the work of DHSS.

In your rubrics, we recommend providing expectations that cover:

    • Experiential learning
    • Project management – timelines, articulated goals for completion
    • Question/answer structure (thesis) and use of evidence
    • Presentation/use of tools and technologies
    • Collaboration (if relevant)