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Measure for measure

We measure progress in reading, writing, numeracy and the like, but can progress in creativity, resilience, problem solving or ethical reasoning also be measured?

The role of any measuring instrument is to provide observations that can be used to draw inferences about some variable of interest and answer questions such as how heavy; long; hot?

Thought of in this way, as ACER Chief Executive Prof Geoff Masters AO writes in Teacher, measuring instruments in education are not fundamentally different from other measuring instruments.

‘Most attempts to measure are based on observations made in controlled situations. When we measure a person’s height, we do not attempt to measure them as they go about their daily activities, but instead place them in an artificial situation: shoes off, back to the wall, chin up, no slouching,’ Prof Masters observes.

While the same is true of measurement in education, the problem is that the nature of some variables may make it difficult to make valid observations under standardised conditions. ‘Can variables such as honesty, resilience and respect for others be assessed in controlled situations?’ Prof Masters asks. ‘If we gather observations opportunistically in natural contexts, will they be an adequate basis for measurement?’

Such problems are not necessarily insurmountable, but require clever ways of gathering observations coupled with the use of a measurement model to check on the consistency of the observations with the intended underlying variable.

‘Whether an educational variable can be measured depends on how creative we are in finding ways to make observations capable of providing valid and consistent information about the variable we are interested in measuring. It also depends on the use of an appropriate measurement model to supervise our efforts to measure,’ he concludes. ■

Read the full article:

‘But can we measure it?’ by Geoff Masters is published in Teacher. https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/geoff-masters/article/but-can-we-measure-it

RD

About the author

Professor Geoff Masters AO is the Chief Executive of ACER. 

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View selected works of Geoff Masters

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