It seems as though nearly every day a new headline exclaims how scientists have found the "spot" in the brain for some mental or emotional phenomenon. This brain craze has spread into education, where countless “brain-based” educational products and services are offered. How can educators separate the reasonable brain-based claims from the unreasonable claims? What does research on the brain really have to say about education?
Intellectual and psychosocial functioning develop along complex learning pathways. Steinberg, Cauffman, Woolard, Graham, and Banich (see record 2009-18110-001) measured these two classes of abilities with narrow, biased assessments that captured only a segment of each pathway and created misleading age patterns based on ceiling and floor effects. It is a simple matter to shift the assessments to produce the opposite pattern, with cognitive abilities appearing to develop well into adulthood and psychosocial abilities appearing to stop developing at age 16. Their measures also lacked a realistic connection to the lived behaviors of adolescents, abstracting too far from messy realities and thus lacking ecological validity and the nuanced portrait that the authors called for. A drastically different approach to assessing development is required that (a) includes the full age-related range of relevant abilities instead of a truncated set and (b) examines the variability and contextual dependence of abilities relevant to the topics of murder and abortion.
Developmental psychology is currently used to measure psychological phenomena and by some, to re-design communities. While we generally support these uses, we are concerned about quality control standards guiding the production of usable knowledge in the discipline. In order to address these issues precisely, we provide an overview of the discipline's various facets. We distinguish between developmental models and developmental metrics and relate each to different types of quality-control devices. In our view, models are either explanatory or descriptive, and their quality is evaluated in terms of specific types of disciplinary discourse. Metrics are either calibrated measures or soft measures, and their quality is evaluated in terms of specific psychometric parameters. Following a discussion on how developmentalists make metrics, and on a variety of metrics that have been made, we discuss the two key psychometric quality-control parameters, validity and reliability. This sets the stage for a limited and exploratory literature review concerning the quality of a set of existing metrics. We reveal a conspicuous lack of psychometric rigor on the part of some of the most popular developmental approaches and invite remedies for this situation.
In light of the wonderful rejoinders to the paper by Zachary Stein and myself, I offer a few informal (and rather rushed) comments in response, focusing on three elements: 1) the dangers of labeling colleagues; 2) psychometrics; and 3) the relationship between cognition and ego.
In a previous article (Stein and Heikkinen, 2008), we described how the Lectical Assessment System (LAS) and other aspects of developmental maieutics (Dawson & Stein, 2008) relate to the integral model. Here, we describe how the LAS can be used to reveal within-level differences between persons—differences that have important implications for the kind of learning interventions that are most likely to support individual development. We argue that assessments based on independent examinations of structure and content—such as the LAS—make it possible to describe the full range of conceptions that characterize each developmental level. Further, because the LAS is content independent, LAS analysts are less likely mistakenly to view simple differences in content as indicative of differences in developmental level, a common problem with domain specific systems. Finally, the LAS makes it possible to hone in on the strengths and weaknesses of a performance in terms of the range of conceptions and skills that characterize its level, allowing us to provide specific educative feedback.In the following section, we provide a short description of the LAS and the assessment that was employed to collect the examples we use to illustrate our point—the LDMA. We then discuss those examples—that are scored at the same Lectical level—in terms of their similarities and differences.
The goal of this article is to introduce Integral researchers to the Lectical Assessment System (LAS). The LAS is a domain general measure of development that can be used to create a variety of psychographs as part of a unified methodological approach. In an introductory theoretical discussion, we situate the LAS within the Integral model, suggesting that it operationalizes key aspects of the construct of altitude. After a discussion of ideas from the history of developmental structuralism, we introduce the basic components of the LAS. We then address the validity of the LAS, summarizing the results of psychometric validity tests and comparisons to other developmental assessment systems. Finally, we demonstrate how to use the LAS to build a variety of psychographs, and then close with some reflections on what the LAS has to offer in the context of Integral research and practice.