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.