Conducting Educational Research: A Comparative View

By R. Murray Thomas | Go to book overview

13
Interpreting Tests, Questionnaires, and Interviews

Tests, questionnaires, and interviews are the principal methods researchers use to obtain respondents' answers to questions. As the following potpourri of interpretations demonstrates, the distinction among tests, questionnaires, and interviews is often imprecise. Achievement and aptitude tests do, indeed, measure respondents' answers against accepted standards of right and wrong information, so those instruments qualify as tests in the traditional sense of the term. However, devices described as attitude tests or personality tests do not yield results in terms of correct and incorrect answers. Instead, they locate respondents' answers in categories which reflect inferred constructs like self- concept, race prejudice, submissive personality, introversion, Christian viewpoint, and more. Thus, such "tests" are essentially questionnaires that are sometimes referred to as inventories or rating scales. Their purpose is to classify people by means of the researcher's system of descriptive categories. Those devices are discussed in the questionnaire section, whether or not they officially bear the title test.

Nor should the distinction between interviews on one hand and tests and questionnaires on the other be regarded as absolute, since oral questions addressed to individuals can serve either to measure their status against a standard or to place them in a classification category. Consequently, the chapter has been divided into three sections--tests, questionnaires, and interviews--chiefly for convenience of discussion. Overlap among the sections can be expected.


TESTS

The interpretation of test results can serve numerous functions. Six of the functions involve (a) displaying individuals' and groups' levels of aptitude or achievement, (b) revealing individuals' and groups' strengths and weaknesses across a series of performances, (c) estimating the causes of correlations between

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