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Title:A Pitfall in the Construct Validation of Ability Tests
Author(s):Norris, Stephen P.
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Tests and Measurements
Abstract:This thesis is about problems in the theory and practice of the construct validation of ability tests. The main point is that there is a danger that people following the guidelines to be found in the construct validation literature will reach unjustified conclusions about which constructs tests measure. More specifically, there is a danger that people following the advice in the construct validation literature will set the goals of construct validation using realistically-based thinking and use nominalistically-based procedures to reach those goals, and nominalistically-based procedures cannot be adequately used to reach realistically-based goals. Nominalistically-based thinking is thinking based upon conceiving of abilities nominalistically. To conceive of abilities nominalistically is to hold that ability terms and expressions refer to classes of behaviours. Realistically-based thinking is thinking based upon conceiving of abilities realistically. To conceive of abilities realistically is to hold that ability terms and expressions refer to powers which people possess which enable them to behave in certain ways.
The thesis has five chapters. Chapter I gives an introduction to and the motivation for the thesis. Chapter II contains a description of the need for construct validation as perceived by many of the most prominent experts in the testing field. The purpose is to show that, according to the experts of the testing field, construct validation is required, if certain types of conclusions are to be reached.
Chapter III contains a description of the received view of construct validation and an indication of disagreements over issues basic to that view. The received view is an outline of the steps to follow and the evaluative criteria to use in conducting construct validations. It is called "the received view" because it is the view accepted by most of the experts in the field of testing. The disagreements are over the goal of construct validations, the concepts of truth and explanation to employ, the pertinence of the evaluative criteria, and the nature of abilities.
Chapter IV contains an attempt to explain the existence of the disagreements indicated in Chapter III. The argument is that the existence of the disagreement over the ontological status of abilities is responsible for the existence of the other four disagreements. This chapter shows that in essence there are two sets of beliefs fundamental to construct validation mixed together in the testing literature.
Chapter V contains the argument for the main conclusion of the thesis, and some recommendations for further research on issues related to those treated in this thesis. The conclusion is that the shifts between realistic and nominalistic thinking in the construct validation literature create a danger that people will reach unjustified conclusions in conducting construct validations. The danger exists because the perceived need for construct validation is likely based upon realistic thinking while the many nominalistically-based construct validation procedures recommended in the literature, procedures which cannot satisfy realistically-based goals, are tempting to follow because of their straightforwardness and apparent stringency.
A recommendation in Chapter V is that both construct validation goals and procedures be based upon realistic thinking. Some reasons are given to support the claim that realistically-based thinking is more adequate than nominalistically-based thinking for reaching many of the goals of testing.
Issue Date:1981
Description:115 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1981.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8127658
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-12
Date Deposited:1981

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