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Assessment as Evidential Reasoning

by Joanna S. Gorin - 2014

Background/Context: Principles of evidential reasoning have often been discussed in the context of educational and psychological measurement with respect to construct validity and validity arguments. More recently, Mislevy proposed the metaphor of assessment as an evidentiary argument about students’ learning and abilities given their behavior in particular circumstances. An assessment argument consists of a claim one wants to make, typically about student learning, and evidence that supports that claim. From this perspective, the quality of our assessments are a function of both whether we have built our arguments about the right types of claims and whether we have collected sufficient persuasive evidence to support our claims.

Purpose: This paper examines limitations of the dominant practice in educational assessment of the 20th century, which focuses on relatively simple claims and often rely on a single piece of evidence. This paper considers future educational assessment in terms of principles of evidential reasoning, focusing the discussion on the changes to the claims our assessments must support, the types of evidence needed to support these claims, and the statistical tools available to evaluate our evidence vis-à-vis the claims. An expanded view of assessment is advanced in which assessments based on multiple evidence sources from contextually rich situated learning environments, including unconventional data regarding human competencies, improve our ability to make valid inferences and decisions about all education stakeholders.

Conclusions: For educational assessment to have the positive impact we intend on educational outcomes, future assessments must leverage technological and computational developments, as well as more contemporary models of human cognition, to build robust complex evidential arguments about the critical competencies that are likely to determine individuals’ success in 21st century society.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 11, 2014, p. 1-26
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17626, Date Accessed: 6/13/2021 10:17:56 AM

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About the Author
  • Joanna Gorin
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    JOANNA GORIN is Senior Research Director of the Cognitive & Learning Sciences Center at the Educational Testing Service. Her research has focused on the integration of cognitive and psychometric theory to principled assessment design and analysis, including studies of item difficulty and cognitive complexity, as well as the feasibility of item generation for verbal and spatial reasoning tasks. Her recent publications include papers on the design and validation of assessments for complex competencies, including emerging definitions of literacy (Gorin, O’Reilly, Sabatini, Song, & Deane, 2013) and Next Generation Science Standards (Gorin & Mislevy, 2013).
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