The Journey to Knowledge

There are three stages of development through which a new idea is brought into use. This is the pattern by which the Rasch model has been developed into a useful tool for the construction of tests.

Stage 1: Try It Out

The first stage was the application of the idea that Rasch encapsulated in his model. His neat and clean probabilistic model, which strongly represents the essence of what Item Response Theory is intended to do, was an essential measurement insight and a decisive departure from traditional testing. Application of the Model generally produced reasonable results. But there were some problematic ones. In Portland,we could not link tests a full grade level apart in difficulty in a way which satisfied us.

Stage 2: Learn from Experience

Flowchart of operational item bank
In the second stage we paid attention to the conditions under which the model functions successfully. We found that with our Portland data it took 300 cases and 40 items to stabilize item calibrations. We ran into trouble when we tried to link tests more than three tenths of a logit apart in difficulty. However, we still believed that fit statistics and individual standard errors were all we needed to know. This was a hangover from years of statistical training, understandable but inadequate for the task ahead. We experienced a period of maturing, and of finding out through trial and error that the Rasch model requires test developers to think clearly and comprehensively.

Stage 3: Transform your Mind

The third phase emerges as a discontinuity. It arises from the ashes of conventional statistical methodology like a Phoenix - a new way of incorporating old ideas into unforeseen contexts. This third phase requires thought processes compatible with the nature of the model as probably measuring a variable.

Probabilistic thinking must replace deterministic ideas in the intrinsic beauty of the relationship expressed by the theory. Deterministic thinking vilifies randomness as destructive, though inevitable. It follows that randomness must be minimized. Probabilistic thinking, however, perceives randomness to be constructive. Randomness is like wind, fire and water: too much or too little are bad. A healthy variable requires a harmonious amount. Deterministic thinking looks for yes/no directives based on significance tests. Probabilistic thinking looks for reasonable patterns and useful compromises.

The power and the sensitivity of the Rasch model is apparent when judging an item's compatibility with a variable and the relationship of each item to the others in the test instrument. When linking tests, selection of meaningful linking items and their calibrations requires good judgement, not just statistical know-how. This same judgmental procedure is necessary to build an item bank.

Rasch practitioners, I exhort you! Abandon the hopeless quest for deterministic perfection. Decide instead to construct meaning and utility. That construction is often found to have greater beauty and to yield more insight than perfection could have ever offered. "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive" (Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque: El Dorado.)

George Ingebo
3708 NE 136 Place
Portland OR 97230

The journey to knowledge. Ingebo G. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1996, 10:2 p. 508

Rasch Publications
Rasch Measurement Transactions (free, online) Rasch Measurement research papers (free, online) Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Applying the Rasch Model 3rd. Ed., Bond & Fox Best Test Design, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis, Wright & Masters Introduction to Rasch Measurement, E. Smith & R. Smith Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement, Thomas Eckes Invariant Measurement: Using Rasch Models in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, George Engelhard, Jr. Statistical Analyses for Language Testers, Rita Green
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Journal of Applied Measurement Rasch models for measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences, Boone, Stave, Yale
in Spanish: Análisis de Rasch para todos, Agustín Tristán Mediciones, Posicionamientos y Diagnósticos Competitivos, Juan Ramón Oreja Rodríguez

To be emailed about new material on
please enter your email address here:

I want to Subscribe: & click below
I want to Unsubscribe: & click below

Please set your SPAM filter to accept emails from welcomes your comments:

Your email address (if you want us to reply):


ForumRasch Measurement Forum to discuss any Rasch-related topic

Go to Top of Page
Go to index of all Rasch Measurement Transactions
AERA members: Join the Rasch Measurement SIG and receive the printed version of RMT
Some back issues of RMT are available as bound volumes
Subscribe to Journal of Applied Measurement

Go to Institute for Objective Measurement Home Page. The Rasch Measurement SIG (AERA) thanks the Institute for Objective Measurement for inviting the publication of Rasch Measurement Transactions on the Institute's website,

Coming Rasch-related Events
June 23 - July 21, 2023, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Aug. 11 - Sept. 8, 2023, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (E. Smith, Facets),


The URL of this page is