Date of Award

Spring 2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Department of Graduate Psychology

Advisor(s)

Sara J. Finney

Donna L. Sundre

Keston H. Fulcher

Abstract

Recent calls for an increase in educational accountability in K-16 resulted in an uptick of low-stakes testing and, consequently, an increased need for ensuring that students’ test scores are reliable and valid representations of their true ability. Focusing on accountability testing in higher education, the current program of research was comprised of two stages: (1) collecting validity evidence for a self-report measure; (2) investigating the relationship between students’ attitudes and other related constructs. The analyses subsumed under the first stage yielded a revised psychometrically sound self-report measure of students’ attitudes toward accountability testing in higher education (SAIAT-HE-revised) consisting of three interrelated, yet conceptually distinct, subscales. Moreover, invariance of the SAIAT-HE-revised was upheld across first-year and mid-career students, indicating that the measure can be used across these two populations. In addition, known-groups validity evidence was garnered given that mid-career students, as predicted, held more skeptical attitudes than first-year students. Subsumed under the second stage, a series of structural models examined the effects of attitudes on test performance via the mediating variables of test-taking effort and perceived importance of the tests. First, it was revealed that students’ attitudes toward accountability testing in K-12 were related to, but distinct from, their attitudes toward such testing in college, thereby relieving higher education administrators from needing to address negative attitudes toward K-12 testing in an effort to improve performance on college accountability tests. Second, the extent to which first-year and mid-career students were disillusioned by college accountability testing indirectly affected their performance via perceived test importance and test-taking effort. Third, students’ perceived understanding of the tests’ purpose indirectly affected performance via test-taking effort and perceived importance. Fourth, the extent to which students perceived such tests to be fair and valid did not influence their test-taking motivation or test performance. In addition, the relationship between attitudes toward college accountability tests and compliance with testing (i.e., attendance) was examined. Non-compliant students had lower levels of perceived understanding of the tests’ purpose than compliant students, but did not differ with respect to other attitudes. In tandem, these findings indicate that an intervention aimed at improving test-taking motivation and compliance with testing should occur in the middle of students’ academic careers and focus on clarifying the purpose of testing. More positive attitudes toward college accountability testing are likely to improve test-taking behavior, thereby leading to more valid test scores, and thus more accurate evaluation of academic programming.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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