Three Stages of Construct Definition

The development of construct definition follows a process that is articulated by its source of knowledge.

Stage 1) Instrument calibration based on personal knowledge, intuition and subjective analysis.
Pre-Galilean discussions of temperature measurement are interspersed with references to subjective "scales" of measurement anchored by terms like "as cold as when it snows" or "too hot to touch." A recent example is the attempt to measure "health risks of exposure to ionizing radiation." The observation (quantity of ionizing radiation) is converted into a measure (health risk) via calibrations based on the observer's value system. Objective measurement of constructs in their formative stages is difficult because theory is weak.

Stage 2) Data-based instrument calibrations.
17th Century temperature measurement employed data-based calibration. In Europe, two dozen "scales" competed for favor. Calibrations of thermometers were done on an instrument-by-instrument basis in the laboratory of the instrument maker. The particular readings of the thermometer, when exposed to states with known temperatures (e.g., human temperature), were used to calibrate each thermometer as it was manufactured. Measures from the same instrument maker were consistent and "specifically objective", i.e., two instruments from the same maker produced basically the same numbers. Measures from thermometers built by different instrument makers differed and there was no common frame of reference to permit a measure's reexpression in another metric.

A recent example of second stage construct definition is "mathematics achievement." Numerous instruments (tests) exist for measuring "mathematics ability", each with its own scale. Fifty years of factor-analytic research imply that all instruments measure something in common, but there is no shared framework that permits reexpressing one measure (e.g., NAEP) in terms of another (e.g., CAT). The confusion produced by multiple metrics contributes to the lack of consensus about what is, or should be, measured under the label of "mathematics ability".

Stage 3) Theory-based instrument calibration.
Thermometers made today are manufactured and shipped to customers without reference to data on the performance characteristics of the particular instrument. Instrument calibration is accomplished via theory-based equations and tables. Manufacturing proceeds with total reliance on theory. Theory enables any measure to be reexpressed in the metric of another instrument maker (e.g., Celsius to Fahrenheit). Measures calibrated by theory are "generally objective." Any two observers given the same observation (volume displacement of mercury in a tube) will report back the same number as a measure.

The only behavioral science construct that approaches third stage development is "reading comprehension." This is because the Lexile Framework enables generally objective, theory-based, measurement of reading comprehension. Reading comprehension tests can be calibrated on the same metric, without reference to the performance of actual readers. The only reference required is the Lexile equation.

Three Stages of Construct Definition, A Stenner & I Horabin … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1992, 6:3 p. 229

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
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
May 17 - June 21, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
June 12 - 14, 2024, Wed.-Fri. 1st Scandinavian Applied Measurement Conference, Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden
June 21 - July 19, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
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),
Oct. 4 - Nov. 8, 2024, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Jan. 17 - Feb. 21, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
May 16 - June 20, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
June 20 - July 18, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Facets),
Oct. 3 - Nov. 7, 2025, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),


The URL of this page is