Argument-Based Validity in Classroom and Program Contexts: Applications and Considerations

Article appearing in Shiken 18.1 (August 2014) pp. 18-24.

Author: Justin Cubilo
University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Opening paragraph:
Central to determining the quality of any measure of learner ability is the determination of whether such measures provide a valid assessment of the abilities under question. The notion of what validity is and how to assess the validity of a given measure has undergone several changes over the past half century. Early conceptualizations of validity focused on the notions of criterion, content, and construct validity as more or less separate models. However, it has been recognized that criterion and content validity, while useful, are limited in what they can provide as supporting evidence for establishing validity since when they are used individually they only address a smaller portion of what needs to be considered for assessing the validity of a measure. This led some theorists such as Loevinger (1957) to suggest that criterion and content validities were simply parts of validation which fell under the umbrella of construct validation. Based on this view of validation, Messick (1989) proposed a unified model of validity, which included empirical methods for construct validation and consequences for test interpretation and use. At this time, Messick (p.13) defined validity as:

An integrated evaluative judgment of the degree to which empirical evidence and theoretical rationales support the adequacy and appropriateness of inferences and actions based on test scores or other modes of assessment.

Thus, with his definition Messick removed the test itself from being the focus of validation and instead placed the focus on the score interpretation and use. This would ideally be accomplished through the construction of a logic-based validity argument by gathering the necessary evidence for and against the proposed interpretation or use of the test score and the inferences that are associated with these interpretations. Kane (2006) outlines such an argument-based approach, which is described below.

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