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October 2008


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Darlene Pantaleo <[log in to unmask]>
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Darlene Pantaleo <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 14 Oct 2008 22:39:53 -0400
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This came from the judges' blog on the FLL website. I hope that  
everyone will take the time to read this.

Why scores and rankings don't mean much.

Some of the most common questions I hear about FLL judging concern  
scores or rankings of teams. Among the questions are “What was my  
team’s score?” and “Where did my team rank among all the teams?” I  
always respond to these questions with “The policy of FLL is to not  
release scores or rankings.” This in itself is not a very explanatory  
answer, and usually leads to follow-up questions and confusion about  
the process in general.

I’d like to tell you why I think disclosure and distribution of  
judging scores and rankings is not a good idea.

The main reason can be found in FLL’s Core Values. “What we discover  
is more important than what we win.” FLL judges are trained to  
evaluate teams on what they have learned throughout their season  
using the set of criteria defined in the rubrics. Rubrics are  
designed to serve as a list of expectations for a learning process  
that can then be used to evaluate achievement. So in essence, they  
can be used to evaluate what a team “discovers” throughout the season.

Judges can use the rubrics to provide teams specific feedback on  
strengths and areas for improvement by returning feedback to the  
teams using the rubrics as a template for the feedback. By providing  
this feedback instead of a score or ranking, the judging process  
directly reinforces the Core Value.

Judging is also a subjective process. For most championship  
tournaments, not all judges get to see all the teams at an event. The  
judges are human and have variation in how they evaluate teams. The  
judging process is designed to minimize these differences, but they  
do occur. The best way to normalize differences between groups of  
judges in order to compare teams is for judges to talk about the  
similarities and differences between teams. The time constraints for  
a typical tournament are so tight that this normalization process is  
really only possible for teams in consideration for award. So if  
actual scores or rankings were distributed, a team might feel that  
they have received a low “score”, but in fact they may have just been  
evaluated by a “tougher” set of judges.

Another reason to not provide scores or rankings has to do with the  
FLL awards distribution philosophy. FLL teams may only win one award  
at a championship event. Imagine if a team “scored” or “was ranked”  
number one in more than one judging category or award. The natural  
inclination is to think that team should be awarded more than one  
trophy, which runs counter to the FLL awards distribution philosophy.

Finally, there is a psychological reason for not distributing scores  
and rankings. FLL tournaments are supposed to be fun celebrations  
where all teams share what they have achieved. Some teams may feel  
that if they receive a low “score” or “ranking” that their season and  
experiences have less value than those of a “higher scoring” team. Or  
they may simply feel beaten. FLL is about focusing on what has been  
learned, and no one should feel beaten after a learning experience!  
In fact, learning quite often has greater impact when we fail or have  
a setback. I want the kids to know that there is something positive  
that comes out of every experience. It doesn’t have to be a high  
score or a trophy. It can be satisfaction that your robot can  
complete just one mission every time. It can be a discovery by a  
young researcher who has found his or her future in nanotechnology.  
No score can measure that.

Darlene Pantaleo
Judge Advisor

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