Assessing Six Assumptions in Assessment
In order to make progress in developing a scientific discipline it is often necessary to turn to an examination of the foundations of that discipline, although the hard-core empiricists in the discipline often oppose this move. Familiar examples of such a move are provided by the Copenhagen School when it faced the mind-bending threat of the Uncertainty Principle and Bohr felt he had to turn back to the Athenian philosophers for guidance; and by Einstein who was forced, by what he called Mach’s philosophical questions about the ether to explore a physics based on denying its existence. We see it again in Sam Messick’s career, which took him beyond the maverick and gadfly role to that of a serious critic of the foundations of the applied science of assessment. This is nowhere more evident that in the 1982 paper in Educational Measurement, where he criticized the assumptions of the National Academy report on testing. He saw and followed the need to connect the foundations of testing to the foundations of ethics, to the concepts of justice and fairness.