Hidden Bonus Criteria/alx

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Hidden Bonus Criteria
Contributors Joseph Bergin, Christian Kohls, Christian Köppe, Yishay Mor, Michel Portier, Till Schümmer, Steven Warburton
Last modification June 6, 2017
Source Bergin et al. (in press 2015)[1]; Warburton et al. (2016)[2][3]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Have some additional criteria that can improve the overall grade of students but are not communicated to them upfront.

You are using an Assessment Criteria List (Assessment Criteria List) to grade student achievements.


Special problems can arise in the course of a term. Students should be rewarded for working effectively, even though the stated criteria could not be met.

The stated course criteria might seem pedestrian and boring to your best, most creative, students.

Even the typical student can be led to doing the minimum to fulfill the criteria by focusing on the communicated Assessment Criteria List (Assessment Criteria List) only. They don’t know if additional efforts will be rewarded.

Some assessment criteria may distract or misguide students in their learning.


Therefore, evaluate hidden criteria that can lead to better gradings but are not communicated upfront to the students. These hidden criteria are not communicated to students because they should not be distracted or misled by them.

While the hidden criteria are not communicated to the students, you should also document them and make them available to students if they need to understand their grade. So you can justify the grade later and make the base for your evaluation transparent - even with hidden criteria. Hidden criteria should not lead to poorer marks because the communicated criteria list is some kind of contract you do with your students. For example, if a team has created a great artefact but always missed the deadline, you should only lower the grade if you explicitly stated that time management is a criteria for assessment.

You may want to point out that there are some additional (bonus) criteria (without making these criteria explicit). Students may guess them, or you may state generally that high performance in areas that are not stated explicitly may improve the total result. However, make clear that these criteria are really additional and can’t be used for compensating unfulfilled standard ones.

It should be possible to get a good, even perfect, grade with only the stated criteria.

You may expect: to have even better conditions for students than in the original assessment contract. This leads to less complaints and students feel treated more fairly. Students are happy that they perform well.

However, hidden criteria should not lead to minus scores.

Students may feel treated unfair if other students or groups are rated better even if they perform equally on the criteria list that is accessible to all students. It therefore is obligatory to communicate all used criteria after grading and also why some of the criteria weren’t communicated upfront.

Related Patterns

—are an element in Flexible Criteria (Flexible Criteria)

—can be part of Multiple Right Ways (Multiple Right Ways) to allow different achievements to reach the goal

—a Performance Matrix (Performance Matrix) makes explicit in team work who was responsible for what


—Efficiency: students should explore multiple approaches rather than only have look for the “best outcome in minimal time". However, if a group has achieved outstanding results in short time, this is a bonus.

—Conflict resolution: if teams perform well in resolving conflicts—or productively navigate the conflict—this is a bonus. However, teams should not be encouraged to have unproductive conflicts...

—Self-guidance: if a team achieves results without much guidance from the supervisor this is a better achievement. However, students should not be encouraged to avoid advice or support.

—Overall performance: sometimes a team performs only average on each of the criteria but if you consider the outcome as a whole it is much better - it feels just better. This could lead to better grading. However, students should not be encouraged to treat the communicated criteria as less important.

—Learnings: Sometimes you observe a real jump in the learning curve and only at the end of the project the teams performs very high. In this case you may want to grade the high performance. But of course you don’t want to encourage students to perform low in the beginning.


  1. Bergin, J., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., Mor, Y., Portier, M., Schümmer, T., Warburton, S. (in press 2015). Assessment-Driven Course Design - Fair Play Patterns. In Proceedings of the 22nd Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP 2015). New York:ACM
  2. Patlet also published in Warburton, S., Mor, Y., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., & Bergin, J. (2016). Assessment driven course design: a pattern validation workshop. Presented at 8th Biennial Conference of EARLI SIG 1: Assessment & Evaluation. Munich, Germany.
  3. Patlet also published in Warburton, S., Bergin, J., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., & Mor, Y. (2016). Dialogical Assessment Patterns for Learning from Others. In Proceedings of the 10th Travelling Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (VikingPLoP 2016). New York:ACM.