Thursday, August 21, 2008

figure skating scoring: that extra something

Aaron wrote about tie-breakers and scoring for gymnastics in his recent Axels, Loops, and Spins Post.

He compared the gymnastics scoring system to the figure skating scoring system. Both were imperfect, he said, but figure skating was somewhat fairer.

This kind of discussion really resonates with me because by day I’m an education writer. I’ve been researching rubrics in education lately and found some interesting dissent.

The rubric in education is much like the figure skating scoring idea. Students receive points for the elements they attempt and even crummy elements receive some points. So, when your kid writes an essay, she’s likely to receive scores for content, organization, and conventions (spelling, grammar, usage).

Rubrics are an attempt to make a subjective process (grading essays) more objective. In that way, you can compare them with figure skating and gymnastics scoring rules.

What Aaron points out in his post is that sometimes a program or an exercise is just better. It’s a quality that goes beyond the individual scores for the individual elements. That gymnast, that figure skater, that student is on during the performance.

It’s the difference between learning the notes for a song perfectly and being an artist. In other words, sometimes the parts just don’t add up to the whole. There’s something more.

In my previous life as a high school teacher, I would give a student a holistic grade before using the rubric on the essay. I combined the two grades (holistic and rubric-generated) to come up with one score.

I don’t think that’s practical for athletics, but someone should put some mind energy toward awarding points for being on or nailing a performance.


TnT said...

Program Component scores can be used to reward that quality you are describing - being "on" or "in the zone." The technical scores (including what the caller does and what the judges do via GOE) are more rubric-based. Components are more (dare I use the word here, since it has negative connotations) "subjective."

(As a judge, I haven't yet figured out how not to use my collection of life experiences when judging -- which would make me less "subjective," according to some accounts.)

Ice Mom said...

Thank you for the helpful clarification, TnT.

There's a reason we have the subjective instinct, I think. Calories, nutrition, and flavor being equal, I'll choose a strawberry instead of a cherry every time. It's preference and it's subjective, but it's hard to remove it from the mix.

Thanks again for your helpful comment.

Aaron said...

But even that component score doesn't really award the "on" factor. Sure a competitor can have transitions, interpretation, choreography and skating skills all with solid execution that can earns points...but does it bring a crowd to its feet?

Take Nationals...I don't care how the points were awarded...Johnny was better! I agree Ice Mom...that has to count for something!

Anonymous said...

The "on" factor translates into qualities that I evaluate and can reward in the p/e, interpretation, and choreography marks. If you can bring a crowd to its feet, you have just shown stellar presentation skills.

I'm not talking about any specific performance, Aaron. Just pointing out that judges can and do reward these things. Program components are only one part of the equation, and we don't control what the technical panel does.