In Testing Standards (2014), a construct is a concept or characteristic that an assessment is intended to measure. From a quantitative lens, a construct is trait or domain that may include attitudes, skills, abilities, dispositions and some aspects of knowledge (e.g., competencies). Research studies suggest that social and emotional learning (SEL) constructs may be useful in narrowing the achievement gap, however there is no agreed upon definition of SEL as SEL constructs are multifaceted and defined by the researcher(s). Currently, some SEL constructs are measured qualitatively but this ignores the quantitative structure of the construct. In the quantitative field, SEL constructs are measured by applying a less complex model before a complex model. However, this disregards the qualitative definition for the SEL construct. Furthermore, a construct cannot be directly measured (e.g., person’s height), instead, we need to indirectly observe SEL constructs through item responses (e.g., polytomous items). The problem is that there is a lack of clarity in how the SEL constructs are defined and measured. In addition, there is very little research in an approach for SEL constructs to have accumulating evidence that supports score interpretation and use. This study proposes using the paradigm for SEL assessment that can lead to meaningful, useful, appropriate, and fair score interpretation and use. The paradigm consists of three components. The first component, the structural components of SEL, makes a distinction of the units of SEL assessment (framework, construct(s), measure(s) and item responses) where the construct is the centerpiece. The second component is where the construct definition and measurement model work together to put forth plausible competing models for the internal structure (e.g., bifactor) of selected SEL constructs. The final component is forms of validity evidence (e.g., measurement invariance) where the focus is to evaluate the claims (e.g., scores can be compared across groups) regarding what the scores represent and how they should be used. The paradigm for SEL assessment encourages researchers from the qualitative and quantitative fields to work together to properly define SEL constructs in a qualitative (e.g., theory) and quantitative (e.g., confirmatory factor analysis and item response theory models) manner.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. 2020. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Michael Rodriguez. 1 computer file (PDF); 137 pages.
Using psychometric models to measure social and emotional learning constructs.
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