Improving the Measurement of Affective Attributes
Andrew Maul

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Santa Barbara

Primary Discipline

Research Methodology/Measurement
A wide range of skills, abilities, domains of knowledge, and other psychological attributes are critical for success in college and careers, and life in general in the twenty-first century. It is commonly acknowledged that traditional educational tests are capable of, at best, assessing only a constrained subset of these attributes. Skills and abilities that academic tests may fail to measure are often referred to as “affective” or “noncognitive,” and include, for example, grit, perseverance, and passion, work ethic, self-discipline, and organization, emotional and social intelligence, self-efficacy, self-concept, and locus of control, cultural sensitivity, and integrity or character.Despite the widely acknowledged importance of such attributes, many aspects of their measurement remain highly controversial. In part, this may be related to constraints imposed by following conventional practices in survey development and validation. In particular, it is commonly believed that traditional survey methodologies can provide meaningful evidence regarding attributes such as grit, but theoretical and empirical justification for such beliefs is often lacking.The goals of this project are twofold. The first goal is to advance the methodology for measuring affective attributes by engaging in an iterative process of developing, pilot-testing, and refining new measures of a core set of affective attributes, particularly those associated with the ability or disposition to persevere over long periods of time (i.e., grit). The second goal is to advance the theory and practice of survey methodology in general, by exploring some of the shortcomings of traditional methods and by exemplifying alternative strategies consistent with modern thinking about best-practices in instrument design in the context of measuring cognitive attributes.
About Andrew Maul
Andrew Maul is an assistant professor in the Gevirtz School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Andrew completed his Ph.D. in 2008 at the University of California, Berkeley. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of technical, conceptual, and applied issues in research methodology in the human sciences, with a particular focus on the measurement of human attributes. He is interested in the history and philosophy of the human sciences, the logic of measurement, the connections between metrology and psychometrics, and the semantics of foundational concepts such as validity, causality, constructs, latent variables, and psychological attributes. His dissertation research explored technical and conceptual issues in the measurement of nontraditional models of intelligence. He spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo, Norway, and two years as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, prior to joining the faculty of UCSB.

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