Ratings scales are undoubtedly the most popular items in research questionnaires. They require the respondent to make an evaluative judgement of the target by marking one of a series of categories organized into a scale. (Note that the term 'scale' has, unfortunately, two meanings in measurement theory: one referring to a cluster of items measuring the same thing - cf. Section 2.3.2 on 'multi-item scales' - and the other, discussed in this section, referring to a measurement procedure utilizing an ordered series of response categories.) The various points on the continuum of the scale indicate different degrees of a certain category; this can be of a diverse nature, ranging from various attributes (e.g., frequency or quality) to intensity (e.g., very much -» not at all) and opinion (e.g., strongly agree -» strongly disagree). The points on the scale are subsequently assigned successive numbers, which makes their computer coding a simple task.
The big asset of rating scales is that they can be used for evaluating almost anything, and accordingly, as Aiken (1996) points out, these scales are second only to teacher-made achievement tests in the frequency of usage of all psychological measurement procedures. Indeed, I believe that few people in the teaching profession are unfamiliar with this item format: we are regularly asked to complete rating scales in various evaluation forms (of students, teachers, coursebooks, or courses), and outside the school context we also frequently come across them, for example when asked about our opinions of certain services (e.g., in hotels, transport).
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