Evaluative Rubrics – Helping you to make sense of your evaluation data

Three times in one week I’ve now found myself explaining the use of evaluation rubrics to potential evaluation users. I usually start with an example like this, that people can relate to:

When your high school creative writing paper was graded, your teacher most likely gave you an evaluative rubric which specified that you do well if you 1) used good grammar and spelling, 2) structured your arguments well, and 3) found an innovative and interesting angle on your topic. In essence, this rubric helped you to know what is “good” and what is “not good”.

In an evaluation, a rubric does exactly the same. What is a good outcome if you judge a post- school science and maths bridging programme? How does the outcomes of “being employed” or  “busy with a third year  B Sc. Degree at university” compare to an outcome like “being a self-employed university drop-out with three registered patents” or to an outcome like “being unemployed and not sure what to do about the future”. A rubric can help you to figure this out.

E. Jane Davidson has some excellent resources on rubrics here and here. If you need a rubric on evaluating value for investment, Julian King has a good resource here.  And of course, there is the usual great content on better evaluation here.

I love how Jane describes why we need evaluation rubrics:

Evaluative rubrics make transparent how quality and value are defined and applied. I sometimes refer to rubrics as the antidote to both ‘Rorschach inkblot’ (“You work it out”) and ‘divine judgment’ (“I looked upon it and saw that it was good”)-type evaluations.

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