Authors and summary: This was written by Ginsburg in 1997 as part of Entering the Child Mind.
Thoughts: I really like the premise of this reading. I do rant about traditional research beneath one of the quotations below, but I feel the points made by the authors of this reading justify many of the thoughts I spilled out. If you want to know an ability of a person, you need to talk with them, ask them questions, watch them, and get to know them overall. A "test" is situational and not justified in labeling someone. It's similar to taking the blood pressure of a person one time and then writing them prescriptions for high blood pressure. Without more readings, one test does not tell you the average or "normal" state of an individual. It also is not representative of their potential in any true way.
This book is an attempt to show that for certain key purposes the traditional methods of standardized testing are inadequate. (p. 2)
if anything is to be learned in investigations like these, the experimenter must have control over the stimuli and must be able to ensure that procedures are fully standardized. (p. 6)
All subjects must receive the same test stimuli - whether this be a list of nonsense syllables or a paragraph or an IQ test - in the same manner. (p. 7)
In one way or another, these reasons revolve around fairness or impartiality. One justification is that standard tests prevent the teacher from favoring some children over others (perhaps by giving some children easier questions than others) or from interfering with the process of testing. Another justification is that the tests make the process public, so that an outside observer can judge whether the questions are too hard or too easy. In this way, testing can be fair and "just." (p. 7-8)
The quote directly above has to be the largest lie ever and the central problem with traditional research. This illusion of control is totally off base. If I gave a strength test to every child that involve squatting a the same weight for maximum reps (say 135 lbs), it would appear by traditional research standards that this is highly standardized and controlled. However, 135 lbs does not represent the same stimuli to all children. Some are genetically superior in terms of strength and some have environmental factors that affect their output that day. You have adequately "tested" their strength with this controlled and standardized test. You've simply demonstrated that at the day, time, and context children vary. What does that actually tell you? Excruciatingly little in my mind.
The fact that it keeps teachers from "favoring" one student is also untrue. All it says it that they aren't favoring a student by changing the testing in the moment. However, the teacher could easily have focused their instruction on a student to improve their strength prior to the test. They could have selected 135 lbs in order to favor one student over another because they already know the past performances and capabilities of the student. The entire illusion of control, fairness, impartiality is a joke and a bad one at that.
In brief, standardized administration does not automatically result in presenting children with the "same" tasks and tests. Objective equivalence may differ from subjective equivalence, which should be our main concern. We must always be alert to the possibility that different children interpret the same task in different ways. (p. 12)
You cannot do good research or clinical practice unless you use your head. First, you have to explore, and indeed, sometimes you learn more from exploration than formal "rigorous" procedures used later. (p. 25)