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Rating Scale for Assessing Leading Discussions

Name: Thomas Hajduk, Tepper School of Business
Scope: Course - 45791 Interpersonal Managerial Communication;
Course - 70343 Interpersonal Business Communication, Tepper School of Business
Assessment Tool:  Rating Scale for Leading Discussions (pdf)


One key business communication skill is to be able to lead discussions. Therefore, I believe it is crucial to practice and accurately assess this skill. Furthermore, students appreciate knowing the details of how I determine their grades.


I wanted a systematic and consistent assessment of student performance.


I constructed a rating scale that decomposes the activity of leading discussions into five major components: (1) content and argument influence, (2) structural and organizational influence, (3) vocal influence, (4) non-verbal influence, and (5) visual image influence. Because the emphasis here is on leadership during discussions, not just active participation, all dimensions focus on influence. Each of these components is divided into a series of measurable behaviors. All behaviors are scored on a 0-2, 0-3, 0-4, or 0-5 numerical scale for a total of 100 points.


Periodically in the course, students take turns leading class discussions. I use the form to grade their effectiveness as discussion leaders. I use this form in two courses on interpersonal communication, an MBA-level course and an undergraduate-level course. I fill in the form as students run the class discussion. My feedback to the students includes the numerical scores and the notes that I scribble in the margins. I also use a highlighter to underscore the most important feedback, so students can prioritize the feedback. Because students lead several discussions during the semester, I interpret the scores not only in an absolute sense, as snapshots of students’ strengths and weaknesses at a given time, but also developmentally, looking at students’ improvement over time. I have used this rating scale for years, and evaluating students as they lead discussions is a standard component of the course.


Students get their feedback immediately after the class discussion. The impact has been two-fold, to student learning and to my own teaching. For students, they can see their progression, especially if they have been working on a particular aspect of their discussion-leading skills. For myself, it has made my teaching more focused because I am more aware of what students are working on.


I update the form periodically to reflect new research in rhetoric and communication as well as benchmarks in the business field.

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