Content Validity: I Test of Written Language
A common way of measuring writing vocabulary is to have students define the meanings of words that they have read. Although this is an important ability, we believe that the actual use of vocabulary in sentence construction is more relevant to everyday reality. We have noted that students frequently use words properly in sentences because they have some idea, if not the exact idea, of what the word means. For example, some students who may not know that the word effete means "wasted" may use the word correctly in a sentence because they know that it is usually a derogatory term and they wish to express a derogatory thought at the time. Also, there is more to words than their dictionary meanings. Semantically speaking, words belong to classes, and a student who intuitively knows a word's class should be able to generate a meaningful sentence that includes that word, without knowing the precise meaning. To illustrate, the student who says or writes, "The boy is effete," demonstrates a vocabulary knowledge well beyond the one who might say or write, "Effete ran to town" or "The boy has effete." [Editor's note:
In light of this rationale, points are given on the TOWL-3 Vocabulary subtest for using each word in a meaningful sentence.]
Having chosen a testing format, we next selected the words to serve as items. We wanted to select words that were used in school, that included all parts of speech, and that did not represent specific vocabularies such as science and social studies. To accomplish this, three widely used reading word lists were consulted: the Basic Elementary Reading Vocabularies (Harris & Jacobson, 1972), the EDL Core Vocabularies in Reading, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies (Taylor, et al., 1979), and A Teacher's Word Book of 30,000 Words (Thorndike & Lorge, 1944). Thorndike and Lorge's list is a combination of words that appear in all kinds of written material. The other two lists comprise words that are included in popular basal reading series and/or on word-frequency lists. The use of these lists ensured that the words selected for inclusion on the subtest would have importance in determining instructional levels relative to general school reading material.