Moss (1992): validity and assessment of performance

11 January 2007

Pamela Moss’s 1992 paper “Shifting conceptions of validity in educational measurement: implications for performance assessment” (1) is cited by Wiliam in his modification of Messick’s four-facet model. It would seem from the figure I extracted from Wiliam’s paper that he is suggesting that Moss is providing an extra dimension to the evidential paradigm. That was what I saw on first reading. On turning to Moss’s paper and re-reading Wiliam I am now not so sure of where he is placing Moss vis a vis Messick.

Moss’s paper is an overview of the landscape of construct validity from the inception by Cronbach and Meehl in 1955 (2) to its publication in 1992. In doing so she looks at evidential and interpretive aspects of the models of Cronbach (1980) (3) and Messick. The latter is not seen as being purely evidential as Wiliam’s paper might suggest.

The thrust of Moss is that a review was needed of the “Standards” of what might be called the Establishment of (American) assesment and measurement (AERA, APA, NCME). This review, she argues, is because of the emergence of performance assessment as a science (and as commonly used tool) to complement test/item-based assessment. She compares this to the contemporaneous diminuition of the dominance of positivism.

In performance assessment there is a strong interpretive base. The learner will interpret the task and manifest skills, knowledge and understanding through their performance. the assessor will re-interpret this performance to provide evidence to which rules of validity must be applied.

(1) Moss, P (1992) Shifting Conceptions of Validity in Educational Measurement: Implications for Performance Assessment in Review of Educational Research, Vol. 62, No. 3. (Autumn, 1992), pp. 229-258.

(2) Cronbach, L.J. and Meehl, P.E. (1955) Construct validity in psychological tests in Psychological Bulletin, 52, 281-302 also available online at

(3) Cronbach, L.J. (1980). Validity on parole: How can we go straight? in New directions for Testing and Measurement, 5, 99-108.