Lessons from Physical Measurement

Do we measurement practitioners in social science face challenges unknown to our colleagues in physical measurement? Not according to these comments from a 1969 Conference concerned with the teaching of better physical science measurement.

"There is at all levels a serious lack of knowledge of what things can or should be measured, and far too many unnecessary or useless measurements are demanded and made because of tradition and lack of knowledge of fundamentals. There is still a touching faith in "the black-box method" whereby, to measure "whatnots", you buy a"whatnot-meter"; then provided that it cost enough, and looks impressive enough, you have solved your problems. Queries like "Does it give the right answer?" or "Does it in fact measure what it purports to measure?" are dismissed as rocking the boat. In spite of glowing claims by the manufacturer, no instrument can be trusted to work correctly indefinitely."1

"To measure anything whatever accurately is to acquire a deeper grasp of the substance and nature of the measured magnitude as well as the effect of the environmental conditions of the magnitude and the ways in which it is or ought to be used. New developments, inventions and theories, however, more often than not precede the relevant measurement, it follows therefore that new developments are generally not fully understood and properly taught until the measurement techniques are available."3

"It is obvious to anyone who has studied technological progress over the period of the last century that the surge in progress coincides with great improvements in our ability to measure and establish a system of standards."7

"Where more precise measurements are involved, a very good knowledge of principles coupled with willingness to consider the effects of external and obscure factors is necessary for success, but at all levels perhaps the most important thing is a healthy skepticism. It is this critical attitude which distinguishes a good measurements man and which is so absent in those whose measurements education has been fragmentary. It is just this critical attitude which is so difficult to impart to students, who besides seeking certainty (Gives us a formula!) realize that their attitude is not likely to be tested in an assessed examination. Again it is this critical attitude in ourselves which is so upsetting when we ask ourselves "How can we be certain?" or "Within what limits can we be certain?" or "What exactly are we measuring?"5

"The writer has seen relics of instruments in all the important science museums of Western Europe and these instruments were, for the most part, invented and made by the scientists in order to establish original theories; such is the poor quality of most of these instruments that the writer can only conclude that the progress of science has been considerably delayed for the want of trained metrologists in the past."6

"The superior optical equipment of the Germans [due to better measurement techniques] was a serious embarrassment to the British during the 1914-18 war."7

"The measurement expert will, of course, need to gain familiarity with the industry in which he works. This is primarily so that he will know to measure the right things, but it is also necessary to give conviction to his arguments in discussions with his colleagues."4

"It is one of the aims of measurement education to convince the students that all measurements are comparisons."9

"Of all the physical concepts which occur in variable magnitude, very few indeed can be compared in magnitude directly. Many errors arise because of a failure to understand what the practice of particular measurements involves. Take for example the comparison of masses in a chemical balance. Failure to realize that a comparison process involves, in the act of measurement, a comparison of torques can lead to many uncorrected errors, as any good analytical chemist knows."6

"A fact quite often overlooked is that there are actually two interpretations involved. An interpretation of the data obtained in terms of the measurements [fit analysis] and what can be deduced from these measurements for the problem investigated."8

"The metrologist must consider the elements affecting measurement precision: resolution (sensitivity, signal-to-noise ratio, granularity) and stability under varying conditions. Next he must consider accuracy, which must be clearly distinguished from precision; and he must provide reference and working standards and calibration procedures by which the bias of his measurements can be held within limits that are realistically prescribed."2


All are to papers in Rawcliffe J. et al. (1969) Conference on Measurement Education. July 8-10, 1969. University of Warwick, Coventry, England. London: Institute of Electrical Engineers.

1. Clifford P. M. Inspection, Calibration and Standardization p.75-77.

2. Harris F. K. A Cooperative Experiment in Measurement Education p.140-141.

3. Karo D., Ross G. The Improvement and Modernization of Measurement Education in Universities and Industry p.91-96.

4. Noltingk B. E. Education for Innovation in Measurement Techniques p.45-49.

5. Price E. M. Proposals for the Improvement of Measurement Education in National Certificate Courses in Electrical and Electronic Engineering p.41-44.

6. Rawcliffe J. Measurement, Metrology and Progress p.150-158

7. Rawcliffe J. Some Observations on the Present Status of Measurement Education p.78-81.

8. Reisen G. Training Units for the Laboratory Class p.135-141.

9. Walker R. Training for Calibration - A Basic Six Weeks Course. p.121-125.

Lessons from Physical Measurement. Rawcliffe J. et al. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1997, 11:1 p. 544-5.

Rasch-Related Resources: Rasch Measurement YouTube Channel
Rasch Measurement Transactions & Rasch Measurement research papers - free An Introduction to the Rasch Model with Examples in R (eRm, etc.), Debelak, Strobl, Zeigenfuse Rasch Measurement Theory Analysis in R, Wind, Hua Applying the Rasch Model in Social Sciences Using R, Lamprianou El modelo métrico de Rasch: Fundamentación, implementación e interpretación de la medida en ciencias sociales (Spanish Edition), Manuel González-Montesinos M.
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Rasch Models for Measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Best Test Design - free, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis - free, Wright & Masters
Virtual Standard Setting: Setting Cut Scores, Charalambos Kollias Diseño de Mejores Pruebas - free, Spanish Best Test Design A Course in Rasch Measurement Theory, Andrich, Marais Rasch Models in Health, Christensen, Kreiner, Mesba Multivariate and Mixture Distribution Rasch Models, von Davier, Carstensen
Rasch Books and Publications: Winsteps and Facets
Applying the Rasch Model (Winsteps, Facets) 4th Ed., Bond, Yan, Heene Advances in Rasch Analyses in the Human Sciences (Winsteps, Facets) 1st Ed., Boone, Staver Advances in Applications of Rasch Measurement in Science Education, X. Liu & W. J. Boone Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences (Winsteps) Boone, Staver, Yale Appliquer le modèle de Rasch: Défis et pistes de solution (Winsteps) E. Dionne, S. Béland
Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (Facets), Thomas Eckes Rasch Models for Solving Measurement Problems (Facets), George Engelhard, Jr. & Jue Wang Statistical Analyses for Language Testers (Facets), Rita Green Invariant Measurement with Raters and Rating Scales: Rasch Models for Rater-Mediated Assessments (Facets), George Engelhard, Jr. & Stefanie Wind Aplicação do Modelo de Rasch (Português), de Bond, Trevor G., Fox, Christine M
Exploring Rating Scale Functioning for Survey Research (R, Facets), Stefanie Wind Rasch Measurement: Applications, Khine Winsteps Tutorials - free
Facets Tutorials - free
Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (Facets) - free, J.M. Linacre Fairness, Justice and Language Assessment (Winsteps, Facets), McNamara, Knoch, Fan

To be emailed about new material on www.rasch.org
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 Rasch.org

www.rasch.org 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, www.rasch.org.

Coming Rasch-related Events
May 17 - June 21, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps), www.statistics.com
June 12 - 14, 2024, Wed.-Fri. 1st Scandinavian Applied Measurement Conference, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden http://www.hkr.se/samc2024
June 21 - July 19, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps), www.statistics.com
Aug. 5 - Aug. 6, 2024, Fri.-Fri. 2024 Inaugural Conference of the Society for the Study of Measurement (Berkeley, CA), Call for Proposals
Aug. 9 - Sept. 6, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (E. Smith, Facets), www.statistics.com
Oct. 4 - Nov. 8, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps), www.statistics.com
Jan. 17 - Feb. 21, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps), www.statistics.com
May 16 - June 20, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps), www.statistics.com
June 20 - July 18, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Facets), www.statistics.com
Oct. 3 - Nov. 7, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps), www.statistics.com


The URL of this page is www.rasch.org/rmt/rmt111f.htm

Website: www.rasch.org/rmt/contents.htm