Publications & Resources

On the Structure of Educational Assessments

May 2003

Robert J. Mislevy, Linda S. Steinberg, and Russell G. Almond

In educational assessment, we observe what students say, do, or make in a few particular circumstances, and attempt to infer what they know, can do, or have accomplished more generally. A web of inference connects the two. Some connections depend on theories and experience concerning the targeted knowledge in the domain, how it is acquired, and the circumstances under which people bring their knowledge to bear. Other connections may depend on statistical models and probability-based reasoning. Still others concern the elements and processes involved in test construction, administration, scoring, and reporting. This paper describes a framework for assessment that makes explicit the interrelationships among substantive arguments, assessment designs, and operational processes. The work was motivated by the need to develop assessments that incorporate purposes, technologies, and psychological perspectives that are not well served by familiar forms of assessments. However, the framework is equally applicable to analyzing existing assessments or designing new assessments within familiar forms.

Mislevy, R. J., Steinberg, L. S., & Almond, R. G. (2003). On the structure of educational assessments (CSE Report 597). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).