What to Do about Testing: A Response to Audrey Waters

Audrey Waters posted about John Oliver’s takedown of testing and Pearson Ed.  She asks:

How do we seize the opportunity of all this media attention to the problems with standardized testing to do more than talk about testing?  . . . Can we articulate (a better alternative) now so that Pearson and other testing companies don’t replace the old model with simply a re-branded, repackaged one?

Samuel Messick was a Vice President and Distinguished Research Scientist at Educational Testing Services (ETS).  His was an authoritative voice on test validity advocating for restraint in the use of test scores, better and more in-depth interpretations of test score. the collection of multiple sources of information for making important decisions and for consideration of the consequences of test use.  I believe that much of his legacy has been ignored, co-opted, or argued away (even at ETS I suspect).  I’ll speculate on what would he advocate;

  • using more than one or two sources of information when making complex important decisions,
  • understanding the information in the context of a decision and considering the consequences of your testing practices.
  • I also suspect that I could argue with him for the consideration of the validity of testing practices with how it fit within an overall set of district practices.  (i.e. If a student fails, how do you respond?)

Technically Pearson may not be at fault for it is the district use of tests that is most problematic, but Pearson is at least implicit in not providing better guidance and for developing ways for districts  to collect other sources of information.  Eg. The value added model of teacher assessment needs many more sources of information and in fact does not really provide an assessable model of pedagogy, only largely discredited positivist assertions. The first step is to expose those who advocate positivist models of empiricism for which even analytic philosophers would no longer advocate.

Finally it necessary to look at the overall model of education which is still primarily built of a mechanistic metaphor with the student as a vessel to be filled.  The metaphor should be a biological organism adapting in an environment that is primarily social, networked and interactive.  When Pearson speaks of their “potential game-changer: performance tasks”, they are talking in this direction, but their really co-opting performance tasks within the old metaphor.  They have a long way to go.  We should expunge the mechanistic metaphor from educational leadership and assessment models.

The bottom line for Pearson

You may not be technically wrong in your assessments, but when your the brunt of a comedic takedown, you should really look at the consequences of your products use and attempt to deal with it.

Education Needs Clarity

Beginnings: My Graduate Experience  (The 90s and the oughts)

My PhD was not motivated by a career path, but by my love of learning. Temple U’s Associate Professor Helmut Bartel (a proclaimed social constructionist) was an intellectual guide who helped me to recognize the relevance of social theories to my professional experiences; that is, I was by nature a pragmatist. Helmut left Temple before I could develop a dissertation topic and it was fortuitous because I needed to challenge myself to align my thoughts with new mentors. While trying to form a dissertation topic a professor said offhand, “It sounds to me that your talking about validity.” I read Messick’s chapter titled Validity in Linn’s (ed) Handbook of Educational Measurement. The references and the lineage of his ideas were all different, but the conversations where much the same and they centered around a pragmatic approach. The patrons of validity, Messick, Cronback and Meehl, were very clearly analytic in their thinking, but the logic of pragmatism was already deeply embedded in their thought.

Why Philosophy

My studies were in educational psychology, and I do find many discussion in philosophy to be tedious and boring, so why discuss philosophy.  Because, for everything we say, there are many things that are left unsaid and for everything we do, much of the reasoning is left unsaid and unquestioned.  The philosophy I discuss is about shining a light on practices to see what we are taking for granted and to understand what has been left unsaid. What we need is clarity, and that is precisely the purpose of philosophy in its analytic, neoanalytic and pragmatic forms.

Where is Validity in Educational Practice

How do you address validity questions that appear paradigmatically opposed to traditional empirical scientific practice? I begin with an adaptation of a thought who linage I trace Helmut. A successful paradigm change must account for the current paradigm in both its successes and failures in order to forge a true new order. The dominate and implicit practice paradigms today are still mostly based in a dualist objectivist analytic philosophy. Post-modern / post-structural and Marxis based critiques all excel at accounting for the ideological failures of an analytic approach, but not its successes. They fail to point to a way to move practice forward and seem to be losing steam, even as their critiques of analytic approaches remain valid. I think a better way is to consider pragmatism.
Pragmatism and Analytic Philosophy share a commitment to logic and the science method. What Pragmatism brings is a unity of science, practice and ethics (Boncompagni, 2001). Scientific practices are always situated in the midst of ethical horizons best understood as historicized ideological practices. This also matches my earlier experiences where I was working in disability services. The field was moving on from the least restrictive environment to minority rights and people first language. I thoroughly believe in the practicality of science, but science based practices were slow to adapt and often seemed to be standing in the way of ethically empowering practices. Obsessed with an unsustainable conception of objectivity, many scientists could not see how a lack of ethics impoverished science and made it weaker, not stronger.

Pragmatism to the Analytic and Back

I see the history of Pragmatism beginning with Peirce, James, Dewey and Mead, but it became overshadowed by the analytic approaches of European trained academics, especially those associated with the Vienna Circle. As problems were recognized in Analytic Philosophy there began a slow and constant evolution towards pragmatism. In Analytic Philosophy this included people and their ideas such as Quinn, Kuhn, and Wittgenstein. In educational psychology this included Cronbach, Meehl and Messick. This may not be exactly James’ or Dewey’s Pragmatism, but it’s much closer than the direction sought by the Vienna Circle or BF Skinner and I believe that a movement towards pragmatism continues today.

To understand pragmatic social science, let’s begin with Joseph Margolis’ claim: “language and what language uniquely makes possible in the way of the evolving powers of the human mind are emergent, artifactual, hybrid precipitates of the joint processes of biological and cultural evolution;” I see this as something like taking up the naturalism and social behaviorism of Dewey and Mead.  This approach may no longer provide  a foundation for infallible truths, but there is still room for an ethical, objective and empirically warranted practice. This social behavioral and empirical science should be distinguished from Skinner’s radical behaviorism in the same way logical positivism is distinguished from current analytic / pragmatic  approaches.   The knowledge radical behaviorism engenders, fails to adequately recognize the full nature of language and the social world it makes possible.  As a result radical behaviorism leaves knowledge as flat and shallow and more often results in situations (as Wittgenstein noted) where the educational problem and the method pass one another by without interacting. To be valid, empirical methods must reflect the contextualized, artifactual and ethical demands of the problems within a philosophically Darwinian framework of an organism’s adaptation to the social and physical environment. Adaptation is very personal and includes concepts like social poetics.  That is, I accept analytic tools and methods, but recognize them only within social ethical fields that are interpretive as above.  Just as analytic philosophy has moved back toward Pierce, James, Dewey and Mead, radical behaviorism can only be relevant by moving toward Vygotsky, Dewey, Wittgenstein and social poetics.

References

Margolis, Joseph (2012-10-17). Pragmatism Ascendent: A Yard of Narrative, a Touch of Prophecy (p. 133). Stanford University Press. Kindle Edition.

Boncompagni, A (2011). Book Review on New Perspectives on Pragmatism and Analytic Philosophy, EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF PRAGMATISM AND AMERICAN PHILOSOPHY, III, 2, 290-299. http://lnx.journalofpragmatism.eu/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/calcaterra-new-perspective.pdf

Garrison, J (1995). Deweyan Pragmatism and the Epistemology of Contemporary Social Constructivism, American Educational Research Journal, 32, 716-740.

Locating Performance in Pedagogy

Philosophy has a radical way of approaching and dealing with knowledge – for instance, it tries to overcome doctrines which do not question themselves and to compensate for the progressive drift of using and expanding knowledge only technically. Philosophy tries to understand the world . . ..  From: Lucian Ionel

As Lucian Ionel notes, this is an important part the philosophical method of Gregory Loewen’s Hermeneutic Pedagogy.  It’s yet another way of looking at the educational process and noticing what normally flys under the radar.  Loewen’s method seems to be categorizing pedagogy into three classes: Hexis, Praxis and Phronesis.  These 3, along with Episteme and Techne, form the intellectual foundation of Greek philosophical thought.  Episteme is concerned with aspects of knowledge and Techne is about craft or skills in production, both important, but Hexis, Praxis and Phronesis seem to make up the the core ideas of Loewen’s educational processes. I’m studying his approach and think that it might fit the direction of my recent thoughts about performance assessment.  This post is preliminary, about how my previous thought might map onto Loewen’s basic framework.

The specific analysis that Loewen pursues is decidedly Marxist and I do not share this approach.  For instance in Helix (introduced below) Loewen focuses on the reproduction of capitalist repression.  It’s true that current problems with inequality are an supported by the reproduction of a political economy, (see the Piketty discussion everywhere on the web these days), but I want to focus on the need for reproduction if we are to have any kind of culture.  We can discuss what should not be reproduced, but to stop reproduction would mean stopping culture itself.  Praxis also has a Marxist interpretation in Loewen and it has been a term with a substantial history in Critical Theory, but again, extension can be more than just a method for resistance.  Extension (as praxis) and phronesis (as wisdom) can be seen as the way in which culture remains a living and growing entity, able to adapt to current and future challenges.  Thus, I like Loewen’s analytic framework, I just disagree with it narrow NeoMarxist interpretation.  Indeed, it is possible that by extending this framework to approach all aspects of a complex and multifaceted culture based reality, it may be able to reflect back and re-approach it’s original intent from a more productive direction; though it is not my intention to pursue this.

Helix

I will key Helix as repetition and re-production.  It focuses on the passing of cultural knowledge.  In current educational practice, think of Helix as represent the standardized curriculums associated with No Child Left Behind and the Common Core.  These curriculum represent the basic knowledge that is expected by all citizens (re-production) and is (at least partially) achieved through memorization and direct instruction; pedagogy that is high in repetition.  Many current educational practices can be represented by Helix.

Praxis

Praxis, generally understood as practice,  here is keyed as extension.   Think of representing applied knowledge that expands and changes according to the contexts and needs of practice; the learning necessary for practical performance.  This is often considered learning transfer, but in the wake of social cultural learning theory I think of this as extending by adding new learning.  This is not emphasized in current educational practice.  You can see it in activities such as creative writing, service learning or project-based learning, but it is often conceived as an after thought, not as a core educational component.

There are 2 things that should be  included in praxis education to make it more of a core goal of educational practice.  First, at this level you still want to provide lots of structure to these activities and to link them to existing curriculum.  Educational scaffolding can be used as the glue that links the curriculum to the activity structure.  Secondly, bring measurement into these performance activities. Measurement is a core component to education practice.  The inability to satisfactorily measure performance-based practice hurts its standing.  This means development not only in educational practice, but also development in educational measurement.  Note – This does not mean standardized assessment as currently practiced.  See this post on Ontologically Responsible Assessment for more info.

Phronesis

Phronesis is often translated as practical wisdom and it is the second part of my take on performance-based learning.  This is what I consider to involved higher levels of cognitive learning as well as what is often considered character education.  This certainly includes the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, but broken down into more socially relevant skills that are more practice oriented and more socially oriented.  Bloom’s categories are overly individualistic and do not include socially interactive and practice relevant abilities that are becoming increasingly important for today’s workforce.  This is even more true of Bloom’s Affective and Psychomotor Domains which are more closely based on outdated behavioral theory.

Some of the qualities and cognitions to include are: problem identification and solving, creative thinking, situated strategic thinking, self-motivation, persistence, resilience, metacognition and self-directed learning, collaboration, effective situated communication and the ability to form strategic relationships.  For me this is similar to the Praxis level, but it is more open ended and with less structure and less dependence on specific curriculum.  At the praxis level, scaffolding was more knowledge based and emanated from standard curriculum.  At the Phronesis level, we’re moving toward a more skill and abilities foci.  Scaffolding at this level are more socially oriented and come from teachers or peers.

This Phronesis level asks a student to explore self-knowledge; not to just use knowledge in a technical sense, but also in a consciously creative and moral fashion.  This is Lucian Ionel quoting Loewen:

What is gained through this process is what we call self-knowledge: “Phronesis sees through the practicality of repetition and extension by seeing them as rationalizations for the world as it has been. In its subtle but forceful presence, the wisdom of reflective practice asks us to stand outside of the dominion of discourse, the caveat of custom, and move ourselves into the brightest human light of self-understanding anew.”

Where helix and praxis can be scripted (at least to a certain sense in praxis) phronesis is open-ended and reflexive.  It leads to process questions such as: Why is it this way; how have we arrived at this point?  What does or does not make sense here?  Can things be different?  How would you scale a new approach?

These skills and abilities are some of the most important personal qualities in personal success, but fall mostly outside of current educational practice.  They are not only the most difficult to measure, but measures tend to serve different purposes in the educational process.  The overall process is more relational and less mechanistic than at either the Helix or Praxis levels.  These measures must be concieved in more of a joint dialogical nature and less of an automated and behavioral fashion.  This does not mean that we give up on scientific objectivity or become less empirical in measurement.  But it does mean that we do not allow narrow definitions of empirical objectivity to constrict the construct we want to measure.  Narrow (and more traditional) measures represent the “doctrines which do not question themselves” and are the ones who fail “to compensate for the progressive drift of using and expanding knowledge only technically” which Ionel mentioned in the leading quote.

A Practice Perspective on the Quants and the Humanists

Lee Drutman responded to Timothy Egan’s New York Times Article about creativity and Big Data.

First TE says that companies like Amazon who are based on quantitative methods are not creative because they “marginalized messiness”.  LD responds that “(d)ata analysis and everything that goes into it can be highly creative”, meaning (I guess) that Quants can get down in the mess too.  Both are good points but miss another aspect that unites the arts / humanities and the sciences, and this is the heart of my argument.  They are both creating practices that effect our live in important ways.   The point is that we all create.  It’s not whether we are or are not creative.  It’s a question of what we are creating.  From John Shotter’s Cultural Politics of Everyday Life:

But now, many take seriously Foucault’s (1972: 49) claim that our task consists of not – of no longer – treating discourses as groups of signs . . . but as practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak.

In other words, it’s not wether the Quants are creative, but do their analyses treat me as an object to be controlled, or do they treat me as a human being where the analysis respects my being.  That’s called ontologically responsible assessment.  Again, from Shotter:

I want to argue not for a radical change in our practices, but for a self-conscious noticing of their actual nature.

We should offer people clear and understandable analysis where they can make new connections, but also respects and is responsible to their rights as a person.  Yes, as Lee claims, the sciences and the humanities can work together.  But beyond that, they are both human based social practices.  If we see them as practices a la Foucault, there is much more in common than is different.  They are both not only creative, but they are creating.

Action Analytics: Formative Assessment with An Evidentiary Base

I found Linda Baer’s interview on Action Analytics (AA) with George Siemens interesting by way of what I see as a natural synthesis with evidence-based practice.  I see the relationship in the way that  Linda seems to defines AA in 3 steps:

  1. Identify from the research base what is needed to improve student performance
  2. Develop appropriate measures to generate needed data
  3. Use the data and data technology to guide teacher action while students can still be helped.

I find it similar to the idea of formative assessment, but with the addition of an evidentiary component.  Formative assessment is about developing feedback during the learning process in contrasted to summative assessment that occurs after learning. Summative assessment has only a post-hoc pedagogical purpose, while formative assessment is an integral part of everyday pedagogy.  The major difference between formative assessment and AA is that Linda specifies a place for evidence in the process.

I believe that  AA can be relevant beyond the field of education as a general methodology for practice and also as a way to combine evidence based practice and the growing field of analytics.  Analytics can be most productive when they are integrated into feedback loops in a formative way and will be even better when research based evidence is included in the design of feedback loops and in the development of the  measures that generating feedback data.  I expect integration to be tricky and will likely require a robust systems approach.

Successful Practice Requires Science and Aesthetics: Trusting in Data and Beauty

In Praise of Data and Science

MIT’s Technology Review posted the article: Trusting Data, Not Intuition.  The primary idea is to use controlled experiments to test ideas and comes from Ronny Kohavi of Microsoft (and formerly of Amazon).  The article can be summarized as follows:

(W)hen ideas people thought would succeed are evaluated through controlled experiments, less than 50 percent actually work out. . . . use data to evaluate an idea rather than relying on . . . intuition.  . . .  but most businesses aren’t using these principles.  . . .What’s important, Kohavi says, is to test ideas quickly, allowing resources to go to the projects that are the most helpful.  . . . “The experimentation platform is responsible for telling you your baby is really ugly,” Kohavi jokes. While that can be a difficult truth to confront, he adds, the benefit to business—and also to employees responsible for coming up with and implementing ideas—is enormous.

This articles further supports my thesis that Evidence-based practice, analytics, measurement and practical experimental methodology are closely related, mutually supportive, and a natural synthesis.

In Praise of Aesthetics

I do believe that, while trusting science is an important idea, that trust should also be tempered because it is a tools for decision-making and acting, not a general method for living.  A successful life of practice is a balance between the empirical and the aesthetic.  You could say that aesthetics, looking at life emotionally and holistically is the real foundation of our experience and how we live life.  Within that frame, it is helpful to step back reflexively and consider the use of empirical tools to benefit our experience, but without denying our aesthetic roots.  Wittgenstein wrote on this (from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Wittgenstein’s Aesthetics).

“The existence of the experimental method makes us think we have the means of solving the problems which trouble us; though problem and method pass one another by” (Wittgenstein 1958, II, iv, 232).

For Wittgenstein complexity, and not reduction to unitary essence, is the route to conceptual clarification. Reduction to a simplified model, by contrast, yields only the illusion of clarification in the form of conceptual incarceration (“a picture held us captive”).

What I want is to have access to the tools of science and the wisdom to know when to choose their reflexivity.  What I’m against is;

the naturalizing of aesthetics—(which) falsifies the genuine complexities of aesthetic psychology through a methodologically enforced reduction to one narrow and unitary conception of aesthetic engagement.

#PLENK2010 – Theory, Validity and Relativism

Thanks George; a good question I’ve been pondering for a couple days.

First issue; I’ll try to get to a better understanding of how I use of the term belief.  I’m thinking pragmatically here about how I act in most everyday situations, not in an idealized logical theoretical way.  In this context, I use the term belief not as an ill-formed or unsubstantiated theory, but more as a gestalt of everything I know that relates to the context in which I’m about to act.  Some of that may be informed by knowing that we’re not even conscious of drawing upon at the time we’re deciding and acting.  (Thinking of JG’s reference to intuition.)  I think that well founded theories are important, and hopefully, we get them into our gestalt beliefs in a way that will influence our actions to advance whatever practice we are engaged in.

Second issue, I’ll try to get at the relativism issue implied by your question.  Even though I love discussing theory, my primary concern has always been with practice.  (You might say, Phronesis informed by Pragmatism.)  Where I think Boghossian is arguing from first principles to achieve a version of a valid philosophical theory, I’m attempting to achieve the best practice possible by combining the best of all concepts and theories, as I understand them, that can move me towards that best practice.  I need well founded theories, but I’m interested in them in instrumental ways.  Now, that does lead me toward a relativist’s path, but I don’t argue for relativist first principles.  Not all viewpoints are equal and our arguments can be substantiated, but there are limitations to our thinking and knowing that should also be acknowledged.  I favored Joseph Margolis‘ explanation in grad school and I’ll go back to that now.

(According to Wikipedia) Margolis lists 5 themes in philosophy that have been gathering momentum since the time of Kant. (Emphasis added)

  1. Reality is cognitively intransparent. That is, everything we say about the world must pass through our conceptual schemes and the limits of our language, hence there is no way of knowing whether what we say “corresponds” to what there is; what the world is like independent of our investigating it;
  2. The structure of reality and the structure of thought are symbiotized. That is, there is no way of knowing how much of the apparent intelligibility of the world is a contribution of the mind and how much the world itself contributes to that seeming intelligibility;
  3. Thinking has a history. That is, all we take to be universal, rational, logical, necessary, right behaviour, laws of nature, and so on, are changing artifacts of the historical existence of different societies and societal groups. All are open to change and all are the sites of hegemonic struggle;
  4. The structure of thinking is preformed. That is, our thinking is formed by the enculturing process by which human babies become adults. The infant begins in a holistic space which is immediately parsed according to the norms and conduct and language she is brought up in. By taking part in the process, we alter it, alter ourselves, and alter the conditions for the next generation;
  5. Human culture, including human beings, are socially constructed or socially constituted. That is, they have no natures, but are (referentially) or have (predicatively) histories, narratized careers.

I don’t see this as a strong version of relativism that offers no possibility of making arguable judgements (I don’t know where he is now, but back in the 90s Margolis was willing to acknowledge that some of these, especially the social construction parts, could be open to argument).  It’s just that theories, judgements, scientific findings and the like are definitely limited by our cognitive abilities and situatedness.  As an example, one of my favorite topics is validity, which I conceive of as the degree to which evidence and theory support specific practices (I draw this from test validity, not philosophical validity).  You can make a judgement about the objectivity and correctness of a conclusion or test, but no matter how strong the evidence, validity never reaches 100%.  I must posses an openness to look at things in other ways, which also can be stated as, I expect science to progress by giving us better ways of understanding what we once thought differently about.

P.S. I generally thing of theoretical validity as how a theory is substantiated in a general sense.  Usually this will include the requirements of being predictive, descriptive, and testable, but I’ll usually judge that according to the context of my judgement, not in a prescriptive sense.

Richard Florida needs John Hagel

Richard Florida needs John Hagel.  Florida and Hagel have been referencing each other recently (here and here) and that’s a good thing; at least I think it is for Richard’s ideas.  Florida’s work has been very popular, but has also received a fair amount of criticism.  The best founded of the critiques (in my opinion) refer to the generality of his data.  It is correlational and very general, you might say it paints a picture with too broad of a brush.

The issue is that we know two things:

  1. We know a bit about how individuals can be creative and
  2. We know how creativity and innovations correlate with clusters of people, but

We don’t know other things like:

  1. We don’t really know much about the network ecologies and interactions that drive this increased creativity and
  2. We don’t have specific experiments to demonstrate and validate any kind of intervention and
  3. We don’t know if there is a critical mass for clusters to spur innovations.

Enter John Hagel who’s concept of “pull” begins to specify some of the ways and mechanism that may be behind the effects described by Florida. I think the next step is to describe in detail how individual environments work to spur innovation.  Many of the interventions inspired by Florida have semed a little like shooting in the dark.  What is needed is a little more specificity in how things work.  Maybe not to a prescriptive level, but just so we understand what can be successful and in what ways.  There have been a number of projects inspired by Richard, and I believe that his ideas are valid, we just need more causal analysis and measures of success to drive things forward; and in the proper direction.

A Place for Cognitive Tools in Evidence-based Practice

Vygotskian education psychology places a high priority on mediational artifacts or cognitive tools; things like knowledge, concepts, criteria, schemas, etc . . .. These tools act as cognitive mediation and are instrumental to activity as subjects work on an object to produce an outcome.
Activity as Vygotsky's Unit of Analysis

Activity as Vygotsky's Unit of Analysis

I spoke here about how unity of the 3 elements and the central unit of analysis is the activity.  Lets consider an activity example relevant to evidence-based practice.
A clinician (the subject) uses the idea of evidence-based practice (the mediating artifact) to examine routine aspects of their practice (the object) with the goal of changing their practice to improve their patience’s health (the outcome).  If you find that evidence-based changes are not being made in a field, where would you look for a problem?  Many analysis have implied that there is a problem with the subjects, they’re just not using the available evidence or that their knowledge based is deficient.  I would say that it is much more likely that the solution can be found by developing an appropriate mediating artifact that can support clinicians in examining their practice.
This was the focus of Gal’perin, a prominate follower of Vygotsky.  He said that not all (cognitive tools (mediators) are of sufficient quality and that the quality of development (like the development of evidence-based practice) is most dependent on the quality of the cognitive tools.  Specifically, he thought that cognitive tools should be organized around and support the psychological functioning of the subject.    So, what are the psychological functions around which you might organize the concept of evidence-based practice?
  • First, don’t focus on the evidence, focus on the practice and use a tool that brings evidence to a practice focus.  An example might be a checklist used by a surgical team as they prepare for surgery.  The checklist reflects the available evidence and allows the team to bring that evidence to their practice focus, but still allows their cognitive load for addressing important aspect of their practice.
  • Second,  use cognitive tools to organize information and to orient evidence toward action.  A research finding may represent important evidential information, but they are seldom oriented to practice in a way that naturally leads to action.   An example is a network security assessment I developed.  It reflect HIPPA security requirements (the evidence) in a series of 46 questions.  The questions were structured not only to assess security status, to clarify an action plan that would improve the security status.  This again would reduce the cognitive load needed to include an enormous amount of information in a short time span.
Vygotsky developed this idea of mediational tools or cognitive artifacts during the 1920’s, but with the increasing importance of knowledge and other cognitive artifacts, it has never been as relevant or important.  Vygotsky was thinking mainly of children’s development, but his theory is also relevant to adults and their cognitive functioning in their work life.

Evidence-based Testing (Assessment)

I confess; I love the 35,000 foot view.  An article by an old pro, who gives us their overview of the future of their field.  This is Howard Wainer’s, 14 Conversations About Three Things.  His intended audience are researchers of the 21st Century.  His three things are what skills will they need (see #1 below), what problems are worth investigating (See #2) and what topics are not (See #3).

What jumped out at me was the topic, Evidence-based Testing (EBTD) and the premiss behind his recommendation.  (I have more study to do, but EBTD seems to be testing designed with validity in mind.)  His premiss is that statistical analysis has been very well researched and we can get more bang for the buck by focusing on improvements in test design.  We have done a better job improving data analysis than we have in data collection.  I think this premiss holds true across society (education, business, science etc. . . ).  We are generally better at analysis than we are at data collection.  In many cases it is garbage in – garbage out.  It’s not that analysis is unimportant, it’s just that the easiest way to improve analysis is in improving the data / information that forms the basis of analysis.  How do we do this?  By designing measures with greater validity.

  1. Six skills needed by 21st Century Researchers: Bayesian Methods, (Modeling) Causal Inference, (Dealing with) Missing Data, (Graphic representation for) Picturing Data, Writing Clear Prose, A Deep Understanding of Type I and Type II Errors.
  2. Important topic for 21st Century investigation: Evidence-based Test Design, Value Added (statistical) Models, New Kinds of Data (mostly made possible by computer networks)The integration of Computerized Adaptive Testing, Diagnostic Testing and Individualized Instruction.
  3. Topic that can be given a rest: Differential Item Functioning, The Rasch Model, Factor Analysis / Path Models, New Measures of Reliability.

      References

      Wainer, H, (2010). 14 Conversations About Three Things, Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 35 (#1) 5-25.