Psychometrics is a field of study devoted to tests and measurements. Common forms of psychometric tests include personality tests, IQ tests, and standardized tests like college entrance exams. Psychologists are trained in psychometrics and typically conduct many of the tests affiliated with the field. However, employers, educators, and school administrators use the data collected by the tests to create prevention and intervention strategies in the workplace and in schools. The tests can be used to identify social problems within a school, such as bullying, and develop profiles of students with learning or developmental disabilities. With a long history in the field of psychology, psychometrics is not without controversy. IQ tests, for instance, have come under increasing scrutiny as psychologists realize a more complex definition of intelligence.
Keywords Ability Tests; American College Test (ACT); Aptitude Test; Graduate Record Examination (GRE); Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Test; Numerical Reasoning; Personality Tests; Psychometric Tests; Psychometrics; Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT); Spatial Reasoning; Standardized Testing; Stanford-Binet IQ Test; Verbal Reasoning
Psychometric tests are tools used by employers, psychologists, and educators to assess test-takers various capacities. Psychometric tests generally fall into two categories: ability tests and personality tests. Ability tests are designed to measure a person's ability to complete a task. In the case of education, ability tests are created to assess a student's capability for (or probability of) academic success. Ability tests are generally multiple-choice and have a right or wrong answer for each question based on a "normative answer," the average of past responses given by test takers. Personality tests, however, have no right or wrong answers; they are designed to predict how a person may behave in a certain situation. These tests generally come in two forms: a questionnaire and an interview. From an educational perspective, personality tests can reveal a great deal about a student's ability to follow rules or potential for generating conflict.
Ability tests measure a variety of skills including
• Verbal reasoning, or how a student interprets written passages and uses vocabulary,
• Numerical reasoning, or how a student interprets charts and graphs, and
• Spatial reasoning or how a student interprets abstract conditions.
Most people know the most common tests by name. The well-known ability tests include variations of intelligence quotients (IQ) tests, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the American College Examination (ACT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and the statewide, standardized tests. Ability tests are sometimes subdivided into achievement tests and aptitude tests. Achievement tests are intended to assess a person's present capability, and aptitudes tests are intended to assess a person's potential for acquiring new capabilities. Most ability tests provide just a single score, indicating how the person has performed on the task in question in comparison to the established normative response which is created from the scores of previous test-takers.
Ability tests are administered under exam conditions (generally with a proctor in a private room), and are strictly timed. A typical test might allot test-takers thirty minutes to answer thirty or more questions, but some tests take several hours, as they can be composed of numerous sections. There are frequently more questions than can possibly be completed within the timeframe, and, in most cases, it does not matter if the test is completed; what matters is the number of correct answers provided. The test taker's score is then compared with other, past test takers' scores, enabling teachers to assess a student's skills and to make predictions about his or her potential for developing other capacities.
Personality tests, on the other hand, are less objective. Comparison from one student to another does not necessarily give a tester (usually a psychologist) a concrete interpretation of a student's personality type or traits. For example, a psychologist could glean from an interview with a student that the student is introverted and may respond in an inhibited way in a specific situation. When comparing that response to peers within the same age group, a determination beyond the obvious (that the child is introverted) is difficult to establish without a full-fledged investigation into other aspects of the student's life. Whether or not the child has siblings could be a factor in his inhibition; his choices of activity outside of school could also be a factor. For example, a student could be introverted because he has boisterous older siblings, or he could have a reserved character because he's happy playing video games by himself. Again, there is no right or wrong answer when assessing a person's personality.
In fact, personality tests assess students' typical way of behaving, thinking, feeling, or perceiving in particular situations. The test results describe how emotions may affect test-takers, what activities motivate them, and how they may react to or function under certain types of stress. Personality tests tend not to have time limits. Students are interviewed and allowed to respond in however much time they need. If a hands-on activity is presented to the student, there is typically no expectation of time for completion. However, the amount of time a student takes to complete some tasks and how he behaves while completing said tasks can offer valuable information about a predictable behavior. Regardless, since factors above and beyond those that can be noted by pencil and paper establish a student's personality, only professionals practiced in this type of assessment (psychologists mostly) conduct and evaluate them, while most tests of ability are scored by a machine.
While many of the most widely-known psychometric tests are used to gauge a student's K-12 classroom ability or aptitude for college material, many others are used more specifically to remedy a problem or present a different approach to a standing educational concern. The School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS) assessment was designed for just these purposes.
In order to receive teacher certification in many states, teacher candidates must complete a bullying intervention workshop. Some workshops are offered online, while others are offered in traditional classroom settings. For the most part, the information presented teaches instructors to prevent bullying in the classroom and to identify students who may be bullies or the victims of bullying. Prior to the past decade, students identified as bullies were sent to the principal's office and given some form of discipline. However, Cohen, Kincaid & Childs (2007) note that this approach has had little success with regard to stopping the unwanted behavior. Teachers and administrators have figured out that rewarding positive behavior generally results in the behavior being repeated (Sugai et al., 1999) and that making the consequences of a student's actions perfectly clear to him or her can inhibit negative behavior (Baer, Manning, & Shiomi, 2006). As a response to the discovery that proactive rather than reactive approaches to discipline yield favorable results, the SWPBS was created (Cohen, Kincaid & Childs, 2007).
According to Lewis & Sugai (1999),
SWPBS is an intervention intended to improve the climate of schools using system-wide positive behavioral interventions, including a positively stated purpose, clear expectations backed up by specific rules, and procedures for encouraging adherence to and discouraging violations of the expectations (as cited in Cohen, Kincaid & Childs, 2007).
With such an emphasis on identifying bullying (thus the required workshop for educators), establishing intervention strategies to prevent the bully from acting out should be part of every school district's policy. This is not the case. In fact, the only way to determine if the SWPBS is successful is through the School-Wide Evaluation Tool, otherwise known as SET (Horner et al., 2004). This psychometric tool contains twenty-eight items that are measured through both observation and in personal interviews. The results are used to determine the overall behavioral climate of a school. SET requires a great deal of time and one-on-one interaction between students and test administrators for completion; this makes the instrument difficult to implement but otherwise worthwhile in the information it provides.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
In addition to the issue of bullying in schools, educators also have to consider the inclusion of students with special needs in their classrooms. Bellini & Hopf (2007) created a psychometric measurement to help develop profiles of children who exhibit some of the behaviors linked with autism.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (2000), "Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience challenges and impairments in the areas of communication, social functioning, and restricted, repetitive behavior." Each of these challenges and impairments has to be considered by family, staff members, and educators when considering curriculum for ASD children. The term ASD generally covers five identifiable disorders: autism, Asperger syndrome, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, and a less identifiable condition referred to as pervasive developmental disorder that is not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS); these diagnoses are given when clear signs of abnormal social interactions and communication have been identified in addition to restricted interests and highly repetitive...
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