A strong turnout at Deakin Downtown and many more online helped us to kick off this year’s CRADLE Seminar Series. Our own Dr Joanna Tai generated plenty of discussion as she explored what evaluative judgement is, why it’s important for our students, and how it can be developed – and if you weren’t able to make the seminar on the day, a recording is now available!

Here, CRADLE doctoral student Juan Fischer shares his reflections on Jo’s seminar. A recording of the seminar, along with a link to Jo’s slides, is also available to view at the bottom of the page.

Jo’s seminar was a brief but complete overview of evaluative judgement, its importance and its relationship with other educational concepts, which worked well as both an introduction for those who are not familiar with these debates and as further ‘food for thought’ for those entangled in its intricacies.

Jo made clear that evaluative judgement, as the capability to evaluate the quality of one’s own work and that of others, is crucial for lifelong learning as well as professional practice. Following Sadler’s now popular quote (“quality is something I do not know how to define, but I recognise it when I see it”), expert evaluative judgement involves more refined and holistic understandings of quality than simply following predefined standards. In this sense, evaluative judgement implies a better understanding of the tacit elements of quality, while at the same time being able to make defensible judgements about it.

The concept of evaluative judgement is not radically new in that it has its roots in the early literature on formative and sustainable assessment; however, what this concept provides is a new language to permeate not only assessment design in higher education, but all of our teaching practices, including learning objectives and activities. According to Jo’s presentation, the discourse of evaluative judgement provides a purpose for standards-based assessment and enables refinements to existing pedagogies, such as dialogical uses of exemplars and rubrics, multi-sourced feedback dialogues, and problem- or inquiry-based learning. 

Joanna Tai presenting her seminar in background of picture; large audience visible in mid- and foregroundMy main takeaway from this seminar is the tension between explicit and tacit quality criteria and their close relationship with disciplinary understanding. Students and practitioners need to be aware of, apply and refer to express guidelines, but going back to Sadler’s quote, there is an implicit understanding of quality that comes with expertise. It is our role as educators to help students to engage in dialogues and practices that clarify our shared understandings of different levels of quality.

The questions and comments from the audience at the end of Jo’s seminar also provided important routes to exploring the concept of evaluative judgement. Some of these included:

  • Considering the emphasis of the evaluative judgement literature on student development, how does developing this capability affect us as educators? Possibly, we have to discuss what we understand as quality and how we make decisions about it.
  • Words like “judgement” might have a cognitivist feel, but we sometimes make evaluative judgements based on what we feel about a piece of work.
  • Some pedagogical strategies could be used with formative intentions and not have any influence on students’ evaluative judgement. Examples of this are using analytic rubrics suggesting that they exhaustively represent how quality looks like, or providing feedback on students’ performance rather than on the evaluations they make about their own or others’ work.
  • Formative assessment and feedback have had an enormous emphasis on academic skills, which do not contribute to developing evaluative judgement for practices beyond university courses. Hence, it is necessary that we focus assessment and evaluative judgment on professional practices as much as possible.


View slides from Jo’s seminar here.