As a measurement specialist, I’ve always found the AERA evaluation rubric to be a bit minimal. AERA provides the names of the scales, but little information about what goes into them. Some of that is a function of the fact that different divisions and SIGs have very different ideas of what constitutes research (qualitative, quantitative, methodological, literature synthesis). We as a SIG can do better. So please help me out with an experiment on this part.
AERA defines six scales for us (see below). The goal of this post is to provide a first draft of a rubric for those six areas. I’m roughly following a methodology from Mark Wilson’s BEAR system, particularly, the construct maps (Wilson, 2004). As I’ve been teaching the method, I take the scale and divide it up into High, Medium, and Low areas, than then think about what kind of evidence I might see that (in this case) a paper was at that level on the indicated criteria. I only define three anchor points, with the idea that a five point scale can interpolate between them.
In all such cases, it is usually easier to edit a draft than to create such a scale from scratch. So I’ve drafted rubrics for the six criteria that AERA gives us. These are very much drafts, and I hope to get lots of feedback in the comments about things that I left out, should not have included, or put in the wrong place. In many cases the AERA scale labels are deliberately vague so as to not exclude particular kinds of research. In these cases, I’ve often picked the label that would most often apply to Cognition and Assessment papers, with the idea that it would be interpreted liberally in cases where it didn’t quite fit.
Here they are:
Note that implicit in this rubric is the idea that a Cognition and Assessment paper should both have a cognitive framework and a measurement framework.
I’ve sort of interchangeably used techniques and methods to stand for Methods, Techniques or Modes of Inquiry.
Here data (note that data is a plural noun) has to be interpreted liberally to incorporate traditional assessment data, simulation results, participant observations, literature reviews and other evidence to support the claims of the paper.
I’ve tried to carefully word this so that it is clear that both papers in which the results are present and in which the results are anticipated are appropriate. There are also two new issues which are not often explicitly stated, but should be. First, the standard of evidence should be fair in that it should be possible to either accept or reject the main claims of the paper on the basis of the evidence. Second, there are often many analytical decisions that an author can use to make the results look better, for example, choosing which covariates to adjust. Andrew Gelman refers to this as the Garden of Forking Paths. I’m trying to encourage both reviewers to look for this and authors to be honest about the data dependent analysis decisions they used, and the corresponding limitations of the results.
When I’m asked to review papers without a specific set of criteria, I always look for the following four elements:
- Technical Soundness
- Appropriateness for the venue
These don’t map neatly onto the six criteria that AERA uses. I tried to build appropriateness into AERA’s criteria about Objectives and purposes, and to build novelty into AERA’s criteria about Significance. Almost all of AERA’s criteria deal with some aspect of technical soundness.
Readability somehow seems left out. Maybe I need another scale for this one. On the other hand, it has an inhibitor relationship with the other scales. If the paper is not sufficiently readable, then it fails to make its case for the other criteria.
It is also hard to figure out how to weigh the six subscales onto the overall accept/reject decision axis. This is the old problem of pushing multiple scales onto a single scale. It is a bit harder because this is an interesting relationship, being part conjunctive and part disjunctive.
The conjunctive part comes with the relationship between the Low and Medium levels. Unless all of the criteria are at least at moderate levels, or the flaws causing the paper to get a low rating on that criteria are easy to fix, there is a fairly strong argument for rejecting the paper and not representing
sufficiently high quality work.
However, to go from the minimally acceptable to high priority for acceptance, the relationship is disjunctive: any one of the criteria being high (especially very high) would move it up.
A bigger problem is what to do with a paper that is mixed: possibly high in some areas, and low in others. Here I think I need to rely on the judgement of the referees. With that said, here is my proposed rubric for overall evaluation.
|Clear Accept||All criteria are at the Medium level, with at least some criteria at the High
|Research has at least one interesting element in the choice of objectives, framework, methods, data or results that would make people want to hear the paper/see the poster.|
|Borderline Accept||Most criteria are at the Medium level, with any flaws possible to correct by the authors before presentation.||Research may be of interest to at least some members of the SIG.|
|Clear Reject||One or more criteria at the Low level and flaws difficult to fix without fundamentally changing the research.||Research will be of little interest to members of the SIG.|
The last problem is that we are using short abstracts rather than full papers. In many cases, there may not be enough material in the paper to judge? What are your feelings about that. The SIG management team has generally like the abstract review format as that makes both the reviewing faster, and it easier to submit in progress work. Should we continue with this format? (Too late to change for 2017, but 2018 is still open.)
I’m sure that these rubrics have many more issues than the ones I’ve noticed here. I would encourage you to find all the holes in my work and point them out in the comments. Maybe we can get them fixed before we use this flawed rubric to evaluation your paper.
Edit: I’ve added the official AERA labels for the scales in parenthesis, as AERA has FINALLY let me in to see them.