When I was younger I used to believe in more other-worldly things, such as astrology, tarot and dream interpretations. I believed that I could look at another person’s palm and be able to predict his/her future. I believed the reason I was imaginative, restless, and enthusiastic was because I was a Gemini. I even went to a psychic once when I was 13-years-old and spent $10 to have her tell me I had already met my soul mate. There was a certain sense of comfort being able to know my future. I didn’t have to worry because I already knew what was going to happen.
Of course, the longer I spent in the education system, the more “Left-Brain” I became. I started to look at facts, research and statistics for answers. Somewhere along the line I had made a complete 180 degree turn; if I couldn’t put my hands on some cold-hard data to back up an argument, I didn’t believe it. I was all about logic and evaluation, math and analytics. And since there is no significant research data that backs up astrology there was no more telling the future or depicting my dreams or reading my horoscope. I lost the comfort that came with thinking I knew what was coming around the corner. The world was scary and the future was unknown.
But then I found psychometrics. What exactly, you ask, is psychometrics? Well, the best way I had it explained to me was in my Intro to Psychological Testing course. My professor began to explain how we measure objects with direct qualities: height (a ruler), weight (a scale), temperature (a thermometer). Then he asked how we measure a quality like your math knowledge. You can’t stick your head in a machine to get scanned (okay, you can, but you won’t know much about your math knowledge), so what do you do? You have to measure it indirectly. You have to create a middle man. That’s what psychometrics is; using a middleman, an assessment, to make statistical inferences on a psychological quality, like intelligence, personality, or attitudes.
With psychometrics I can still predict the future – and I don’t even need a crystal ball or tarot cards to do it. I just need a reliable and valid assessment and some handy statistical equations. Luckily, as a Psychometric Research Analyst at Discovery Education, I’ve got both of those things. Assessments are powerful like that, when used; and, when used properly. Sure, you can predict a student’s math ability with an assessment, but if you don’t take that prediction and do something with it it becomes as useless as that scale on your bathroom floor that you avoid every morning (at least that’s what I do with my scale).
Starting this school year, I will be blogging here under the assessment blog about how you can use assessments to the full extent of their powers, about how to take data and understand it, and how to use it to become better educators. If I accomplish my goal, then hopefully none of you will feel the need like I once did to have to pay $10 for a psychic reading to predict your and your students’ futures.