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The Women in Assessments

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Q: Define qualitative versus quantitative assessment, which is best?

Tricia Nadoff  ∙       Both qualitative and quantitative assessments provide important insights that support the development of an individual. A well-designed quantitative assessment helps reduce bias in the feedback, while qualitative assessments often provide examples and rich detail. The best quantitative assessments provide the opportunity for both the participant and the observer to respond to open-ended questions, allowing a degree of qualitative feedback in addition to the quantitative measures.

Aristotle famously said, “Self-awareness is the beginning of all wisdom.” If we believe there is some element of truth in this statement then certainly helping leaders have deeper self-awareness is the entrée into a more effective way of leading, and certainly, assessments are effective and efficient vehicles for bringing about increased self-awareness.

As neuroscience will tell us, the more overwhelmed and the more stressed we become, the more our actions become habitual and even more biased. Because of this, leaders can relatively quickly get entrenched in being overly reactive and shortsighted. With 360 assessment leaders are required to pause, understand and reflect in ways that are both broader and deeper than they will encounter in their business as usual responses to their role.

Shreya Sarkar-Barney ∙        Irrespective of the type of assessment, what is more, important is the evidence-basis of what is being assessed. Does it predict anything of value or is it simply descriptive. A skilled coach relying on an evidenced foundation can derive value from a qualitative assessment (assuming one that is gathered through an interview without using a scale). Similarly, a quantitative assessment that is evidence-based can provide comparisons to a normative group and float up information that needs attention.

Cheri Tree ∙       There is no best; it depends on what the researchers are exploring or trying to prove.  Typically, a mixed-methods approach provides quantitative data for analysis of known characteristics along with qualitative data to capture not-yet-known characteristics.

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