Understanding Assessment Validity: New Perspectives

Posted by Greg Pope

In my last post I discussed specific aspects of construct validity. I’m capping off this series with a discussion of modern views and thinking on validity.

Dr. Bruno D. Zumbo

Recently my former graduate supervisor, Dr. Bruno D. Zumbo at the University of British Columbia, wrote a fascinating chapter in the new book, The Concept of Validity: Revisions, New Directions and Applications, edited by Dr. Robert W. Lissitz. Bruno’s chapter, “Validity as Contextualized and Pragmatic Explanation, and its Implications for Validation Practice,” provides a great modern perspective on validity.

The chapter has two aims: to provide an overview of what Bruno considers to be the concept of validity, and to discuss the implications for the process of validation.

Something I really liked about the chapter was its focus on why we conduct psychometric analyses digging into how our assessments perform. As Bruno discusses, the real purpose of all the psychometric analysis we do is to support or provide evidence for the claims that we make about the validity of the assessment measures we gather. For example, the reason we would do a Differential Functioning Analysis (DIF), in which we ensure that test questions are not biased against/towards a certain group, is not only to protect test developers against lawsuits but also to weed out invalidity in order to help us set where the inferential limits of assessment results are.

Bruno drives home the point that examining validity is an ongoing process of validation. One doesn’t just do a validity study or two and then be done: validation is an ongoing process in which multilevel construct validation occurs and procedures are tied in to program evaluation and assessment quality processes.

I would highly recommend that people interested in diving more into the theoretical and practical details of validity check out this book, which includes chapters from many highly respected psychometrics and testing industry experts.

I hope that this series on validity has been useful and interesting! Stay tuned for more psychometric tidbits in upcoming posts.

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Editor’s Note: Greg will be doing a presentation at the Questionmark Users Conference on Conducting Validity Studies within Your Organization. The conference will take place in Miami March 14 – 17. Learn more at www.questionmark.com/go/conference

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