To provide an overview of the variety of research that the military may be able to use in improving its assessments, Fred Oswald spoke on the present and future of assessment science.
In providing the study sponsor’s perspective, Gerald Goodwin, chief of foundational science at ARI, offered context for the discussions to come with a brief description of the U.S. Army’s current assessments and anticipated directions for the future. The current assessments used by the Army, he noted, have their roots in classical test theory, which was developed in the early 1900s [though not published until much later, see Novick, 1966]. From there, measurement theory slowly evolved until the current standard, item response theory (IRT), was developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Minor variants and additions have emerged along the way, such as generalizability theory, which was used for parsing measurement variance beyond “true” score and error. But on the whole, Goodwin noted, IRT is today’s dominant theory for cutting-edge psychological assessments.
“Given that item response theory first came onto the scene in the late 1950s, which is 50-plus years ago,” Goodwin observed, “What I am interested in is, what is next? What is the next wave that is going to drive psychological assessment for the next 50 years? Where is that coming from, and how do we start to codify that, so that we are moving in the direction of developing that theory and getting it to a robust state, so that we can all be using it for psychological assessments over the next 50 years?”
Today, the Army’s base assessment tool for cognitive assessment and vocational skills is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB. It was originally developed in the 1970s, and in the 1990s it was updated for computerized adaptive testing as CAT-ASVAB (see Sands et al., 1999). Currently, the test includes nine sections of multiple-choice questions covering general science, arithmetic reasoning, mathematics knowledge, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, electronics information, automotive and shop information, mechanical comprehension, and object assembling.1 The pool of questions from which the test draws is renewed every couple of years.
In addition, Goodwin said, the military services recently began supplementing the ASVAB with personality assessments. The Army developed, in collaboration with Drasgow Consulting Group, the Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System (TAPAS), which assesses many of the facets of the Big Five personality traits (openness, conscientious-
1See http://www.official-asvab.com/whattoexpect_rec.htm [July 2013] for the most up-to-date information on the content of the ASVAB.