Citation: Huitt, W. (2012). Measurement. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date], from

Thondike and Hagen (1986) define measurement as "the process of quantifying observations [or descriptions] about a quality or attribute of a thing or person" (p.5).

The process of measurement involves three steps:

  1. identifying and defining the quality or attribute that is to be measured;
  2. determining a set of operations by which the attribute may be made manifest and perceivable; and
  3. establishing a set of procedures or definitions for translating observations into quantitative statements of degree or amount. (p. 9)

When engaged in the process of measurement (using numbers for assessment purposes), it is important to remember there are different types of numbers that can be used for different purposes:

  1. Nominal – used to name an object or concept.  A prime example would be zip code.  When making statements about central tendency, the appropriate approach would be to use the mode or most often cited number.
  2. Ordinal – used to rank order objects or concepts.  A prime example would be height; When making statements about central tendency, the appropriate approach would be to use the median or the number in the middle of the range of numbers, although the mode can have meaning for ordinal scales also.
  3. Interval – in an interval scale the size between data points are equal, which may not be true for numbers on an ordinal scale. It is appropriate to use the mean (arithmetic average), median, and mode to express central tendency.
  4. Ratio – a ratio scale is an interval scale with true zero.  All measures of central tendency can be used.

Methods of Data Collection

In traditional assessment, data are generally collected through one or more of the following methods:

  1. Paper/pencil--Collection of data through self-reports, interviews, questionnaires, tests or other instruments.
  2. Systematic observation--Researcher looks for specific actions or activities, but is not involved in the actions being observed
  3. Participant observation--Researcher is actively involved in the process being described and writes up observations at a later time
  4. Clinical--Data are collected by specialists in the process of treatment

There are a number of authentic methods of assessment that educators use (Mueller, 2012):

  1. Projects -- learners complete an activity that includes a number of different means of communication such as written text, multimedia, artwork, etc.
  2. Portfolios -- collections of students work; they may be physical products or e-based
  3. Simulations  -- situations that imitate authentic activity, often in a game-like or role-playing environment.
  4. Performances -- learners demonstrate knowledge, attitudes, and skills in activities closely aligned with those performed by adults in work or life situations.
  5. Exhibitions or displays -- arrangements that allow the learner to show the process and product of learning.


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