Excerpted from "The Ideas of the University", a compilation of the winning answers in a contest asking readers to write about important ideas associated with the University of Chicago. Of the 12 winners, only two related to Professors then still active at the University, Ben Wright and Mike Csikszentmihalyi of "Flow" fame. This winning entry was entitled "A Measure of Quality", and appeared in "The University of Chicago Magazine", 1992, 84:4, 25.
Without the University of Chicago, there would be no fundamental measurement in social science. Why has there been almost no progress in understanding and solving social problems in the last 100 years? Benjamin Drake Wright's diagnosis is that the fuzzy nature of data in the social sciences inhibits clarity of thought. To Wright, PhD '57, professor in education and psychology, the difficulty lies in the fact that social science data are often counts of qualitative events (e.g., absences from school, teenage pregnancies) that lack the quantitative structure needed for meaningful, simple arithmetic. "It is almost impossible to think about numbers that are not equal-interval," Wright declares. He then proposes the obvious, deceptively simple, first step: produce better measurement - fundamental measurement. In other words, construct interval measures with the characteristics of the carpenter's yardstick, but obtained from the counts of qualitative events familiar to social scientists.
In the spring of 1960, Wright was the sole participant to attend
all of a series of lectures given at the University by an obscure
Danish mathematician, Georg Rasch. These lectures introduced him to
the apparently incredible notion that linear quantitative measures
- fundamental measurement of the type on which the physical
sciences are based - can be derived from examinees' right/wrong
answers to questions on intelligence tests. Wright has taken this
idea further. As an internationally known exponent of fundamental
measurement, he has broadened its theoretical base, widening its
practical applications (the Australian educational system, medical
researchers in pain and disability, and physical scientists
analyzing qualitative data on river pollution levels - all employ
Wright's insights), and instructing practitioners in its use.
John Michael Linacre
Measure of Quality Linacre J.M. Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2001, 15:3 p. 835
|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|
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