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Validation of multilevel constructs : methods and empirical findings for the Early Development Instrument Forer, Barry Allan

Abstract

A growing number of assessment, testing and evaluation programs gather individual measures but, by design, do not make inferences or decisions about individuals but rather for an aggregate such as a school, school district, neighbourhood, or province. In light of this, a multilevel construct can be defined as a phenomenon that is potentially meaningful both at the level of individuals and at one or more levels of aggregation. The purposes of this dissertation are to highlight the foundations of multilevel construct validation, describe two methodological approaches and associated analytic techniques, and then apply these approaches and techniques to the multilevel construct validation of a widely used school readiness measure called the Early Development Instrument (EDI). Validation evidence is presented regarding the multilevel covariance structure of the EDI, the appropriateness of aggregation to classroom and neighbourhood levels, and the effects of teacher and classroom characteristics on these structural patterns. To appropriately assess the multilevel factor structure of the categorical EDI items, a new fit index was created. A good-fitting unidimensional model was found for each scale at the level of individual students, with no notable improvements after taking clustering into account. However, at the class and neighbourhood levels of aggregation, the physical and emotional EDI scales did not show essential unidimensionality. Teacher and/or classroom influences accounted for between 19% and 25% of the total variance. EDI emotional scores were higher for teachers with graduate training, while communications scores were higher for younger teachers. Teachers tended to rate students more absolutely, rather than relative to other children in the class, when class size was small. These results are discussed in the context of the theoretical framework of the EDI, with suggestions for future validation work.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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