Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A quick rant about 5 point Likert Scales

If we are doing Level 1 evaluations (and why are so many organizations doing training and not bothering to even start with a Level 1???) then we are all familiar with the use of the Likert scale for lots of simple evaluations.
I was lucky enough to attend a couple of sessions taught by Ken Phillips one of the lesser known masters of the evaluation world and have redesigned my Level 1's as a result.

Ken points out that if you give people a 5 point Likert scale you are almost guaranteeing scores very heavily weighted at 4/5.

People don't like to give a perfect score and that is probably valid. Very little in this world in Perfect.

But if it's better than 'average' then the only other choice on a 5 point scale is a 4. How little differentiation is there between something hat was just a little better than average and something that was nearly perfect.

So push to a 7 point scale.  Or maybe a 9 point one if you can manage it.

Standard good practice in the evaluation world.

So why do SO many tools only allow you scales of 1-5?

I'm looking at LMSs for my client and many have built in evaluation tools and so many of them only allow 1-5 scales. The same is true in Captivate.

It's time the tool set for L&D Professionals caught up with our needs.

OK Rant over.

Happy learning.


  1. I've seen a similar discussion before in the consulting organization when talking about performance ratings where it is common to have a 1-5 scale as well. Occasionally, customers will come looking for a decimal scale to go with it out to the tenths place (one even asked for it out to the hundredths place).

    The discussion immediately boils down to this though: can you realistically distinguish what the difference is between someone who performed at a 4.0 rating and a 4.5? Or better - what's the difference between 4.0 and 4.1?

    I think a 9-point scale is probably the farthest I'd list to see it go. I agree that getting some degree of play between "average" and "great" is a good place to get, but having too much play dilutes the meaning behind it.

    1. A nine point scale is what I always aim for.
      Oh and are you David P from ST?

    2. Yes it is Alan. Hope things are going well for you and yours.