Checklists usually offer a yes/no format in relation to student demonstration of specific criteria. This is similar to a light switch; the light is either on or off. They may be used to record observations of an individual, a group or a whole class.
Rating Scales allow teachers to indicate the degree or frequency of the behaviours, skills and strategies displayed by the learner. To continue the light switch analogy, a rating scale is like a dimmer switch that provides for a range of performance levels. Rating scales state the criteria and provide three or four response selections to describe the quality or frequency of student work.
Teachers can use rating scales to record observations and students can use them as self-assessment tools. Teaching students to use descriptive words, such as always, usually, sometimes and never helps them pinpoint specific strengths and needs. Rating scales also give students information for setting goals and improving performance. In a rating scale, the descriptive word is more important than the related number. The more precise and descriptive the words for each scale point, the more reliable the tool.
Effective rating scales use descriptors with clearly understood measures, such as frequency. Scales that rely on subjective descriptors of quality, such as fair, good or excellent, are less effective because the single adjective does not contain enough information on what criteria are indicated at each of these points on the scale.
Increase the assessment value of a checklist or rating scale by adding two or three additional steps that give students an opportunity to identify skills they would like to improve or the skill they feel is most important. For example:
- Put a star beside the skill you think is the most important for encouraging others
- Circle the skill you would most like to improve
- Underline the skill that is the most challenging for you.