performances of other students on that same test.6 In developmental assessment, the theory of developing knowledge, skills, and understandings is of central importance. The particular instruments (approaches to assembling evidence) are of transient and secondary importance, and serve only to provide information relative to that psychological scale or theory. The frameworks for describing and monitoring progress are often referred to as progress maps (see the above example in Figure 4–6), and go by many other names including progress variables, developmental continua, progressions of developing competence, and profile strands. What these frameworks have in common is an attempt to capture in words and examples what it means to make progress or to improve in an area of learning.
An important feature of a developmental framework is that it provides a substantive basis for monitoring student progress over time. It also provides teachers, parents, and administrators with a shared understanding of the nature of development across the years of school and a basis for monitoring individual progress from year to year. A further advantage of a developmental framework or progress map is that it provides a frame of reference for setting standards of performance (i.e., desired or expected levels of achievement). An example of how results may be reported for an individual student at the classroom level, taken from the First Steps Developmental Continuum (West Australian Ministry of Education, 1991), is presented in Box 4–3.
Note that while the example in Box 4–3 illustrates change over time, no formal measurement model of growth was involved in the estimation, only a model of status repeated several times. These broad levels of development are based on the estimated locations of items on an item response scale. An example in the area of arithmetic, from the Keymath Diagnostic Arithmetic Test (Connolly, Nachtman, and Pritchett, 1972), is shown in Box 4–4. An example of the use of progress maps at the national level is given in Box 4– 5. This map is an example of using information available beyond the formal statistical model to make the results more useful and interpretable. In contexts where interpretation of results is relatively more important than formal statistical tests of parameters, this sort of approach may be very useful.
Enhancement Through Diagnostics
Another fairly common type of enhancement in educational applications is the incorporation of diagnostic indices into measurement models to add richer interpretations. For example, as noted above, the call for something beyond “a single, summary statistic for student performance” could be addressed using multidimensional IRMs; this assumes, however, that the
See Chapter 5 for discussion of norm-referenced vs. criterion-referenced testing.