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Page URL: https://practice.orangatamariki.govt.nz/core-practice/practice-tools/other-practice-and-assessment-tools/using-scaling-questions/
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Last updated: 01/04/2019

Using scaling questions

Scaling questions are a valuable assessment tool. They assume that things happen on a continuum and open up room for discussion about what could be different.

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This content will be strengthened so it more completely reflects our commitment to practice framed by te Tiriti o Waitangi, based on a mana-enhancing paradigm for practice, and drawing from ​Te Ao Māori principles of oranga to support mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga. We each need to consider how we can apply these principles to our practice when reading this content. The following resources provide support:
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What scaling questions are

Scaling questions ask for a response to a question as a position on a scale.

They create a dialogue that assumes there is a continuum — that the problem doesn’t happen all the time and that there are and can be exceptions.

By their nature, scaling questions embrace the possibility of change. They open up conversations about how things could be different.


In the last two weeks, how often did you feel worried or frightened?

Depending on who you're asking and how old they are, you could offer them a scale like:

  • Between 1 and 10, if 1 is not at all, and 10 is all the time
  • Between Olaf and Elsa — Olaf never feels worried or frightened, and Elsa is worried all the time.
  • Use cut-out shapes of different sizes to indicate the size of their worry or fear.

When to use them

Scaling questions are versatile — they can be used in any context and they focus on a problem in a way that separates it from the person.

They can be used to assess and measure progress with:

  • very young tamariki
  • rangatahi who offend 
  • parents, caregivers and other adults.

We use scaling questions in the Tuituia assessment tool to show change over time. The tool generates a summary diagram for each assessment based on the scales for each subdomain — this gives an overall picture of where things are at for te tamaiti that can be compared to previous assessments. This helps us to see where progress has been made and where we still need to focus.

The Tuituia framework and tools

How to use them

There are no set scales which work for everyone — what’s important is that the scale works for each person, allowing them to explore where they are in relation to the issues.

You can create a scale with numbers, images or a character with whom te tamaiti identifies. The key to constructing individualised pictorial scales is to take the time to find out what te tamaiti prefers — not everyone likes drawing and colouring.

You might:

  • use scales that have shapes that start small and get larger so the child or young person can indicate the size of a problem without having to talk about it
  • create a scale with pictures or characters at each end
  • ask young tamariki to jump from number to number on a large scale laid out on the floor.

Although a typical numerical scale is 1–10, most teenagers tend to prefer wider scales of 1–100 and may even go off the scale ("I feel like it's 3 zillion today — life is brilliant!").