Book Review: "Constructing Measures: An Item Response Modeling Approach"

Mark Wilson (2004) Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

The plot-line of "Constructing Measures" is straight-forward. The first chapter presents "A Constructivist Approach to Measurement" outlining four building blocks. These four blocks are the topics of the next four chapters: construct maps, item design, outcome space (i.e., the data and its structure), and the measurement model. The next three chapters focus on specific aspects of instrument quality: model-data fit, measurement error and evidence of test validity. The last chapter connects the topics in the book to the wider worlds of psychology, statistics and assessment.

In total, this book is an excellent text for those desiring to construct, apply and benefit from valid test instruments for measuring educational or psychological traits. The book contrasts strongly with the typical text on educational and psychological testing and measurement. Such texts contain a mass of technical detail and jargon, but lack the careful guidance the neophyte requires to successfully construct a test. A parallel is a book of cooking recipes. The novice cook sees what the final result should look like from the picture and also sees the list of ingredients, but cannot get successfully from the one to the other. "Constructing Measures" guides the reader safely along the rocky path.

Test items must validly measure the instructional objectives

Fig. 1. The 4 building blocks of Wilson, 2004, Fig. 1.9

Test items must validly measure the instructional objectives

Fig. 2. The three-stage classroom measurement model of Kubiszyn and Borich, 2000, Fig. 4.1

The power of the practical, yet deeply philosophical, test-development model central to "Constructing Measures" is obvious when compared with models presented in conventional textbooks. "Constructing Measures" presents a development cycle, Fig. 1, with clearly specified actions to be taken at each stage. The process is one of incremental improvement of every block. The cycle is repeated until the desired results are obtained. A conventional model, such as that in Fig.2, implies a development cycle, but one in which only the test items change, all else is fixed. It operationalizes the "pile-up" theory of respondent performance. The test is a check-list, and respondent success is counted up from "none" to "all". At any moment, each respondent has a certain accumulation, but there is little information about what should be accumulated next, or whether there are holes in the pile.. In contrast, Fig. 1 supports a "ladder" theory of respondent success. At any moment each respondent is at a certain height. We know what is above the respondent and what is below. We can identify the respondent's special strengths and deficits. Further, Fig 1 contains the fundamental insight that, during the test development process, our understanding of the instructional objectives and activities, i.e., the formal statement of the construct, will change. Gaps, obscurities and ambiguities will be encountered. The formal test probes the respondents, but Fig 1. also asserts that their responses probe the construct.

Accompanying the book is the computer program ConstructMap (formerly GradeMap). This features graphical representations of the construct, the functioning of the items, and the response patterns of individual respondents. At the time of this review, ConstructMap (formerly GradeMap) produced conceptually interesting output, but was somewhat slow.

A couple of slight improvements to the text: first, Wright & Masters (1981) should be (1982). More fundamentally, page 4, "1.1 What is Measurement?", contains the enigmatic phrase, "those numbers [measures] have certain properties." It is not until we get to page 92 (in my reading of the text) that the essential property is revealed: "the difference between them is what matters" (Emphasis author's), i.e., the numbers must have linear scaling. In fact, a central purpose of the book is to instruct the reader how to design tests that locate the performance of each person and the difficulty of each item on a shared linear measurement ruler.

This title is currently on offer at $29.95. Its contents complement "Applying the Rasch Model" (Bond & Fox, 2001, Erlbaum).

John Michael Linacre

Book review: Constructing Measures: An Item Response Modeling Approach (M. Wilson), Linacre J … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 2004, 18:3 p. 986

Please help with Standard Dataset 4: Andrich Rating Scale Model

Rasch Publications
Rasch Measurement Transactions (free, online) Rasch Measurement research papers (free, online) Probabilistic Models for Some Intelligence and Attainment Tests, Georg Rasch Applying the Rasch Model 3rd. Ed., Bond & Fox Best Test Design, Wright & Stone
Rating Scale Analysis, Wright & Masters Introduction to Rasch Measurement, E. Smith & R. Smith Introduction to Many-Facet Rasch Measurement, Thomas Eckes Invariant Measurement: Using Rasch Models in the Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, George Engelhard, Jr. Statistical Analyses for Language Testers, Rita Green
Rasch Models: Foundations, Recent Developments, and Applications, Fischer & Molenaar Journal of Applied Measurement Rasch models for measurement, David Andrich Constructing Measures, Mark Wilson Rasch Analysis in the Human Sciences, Boone, Stave, Yale
in Spanish: Análisis de Rasch para todos, Agustín Tristán Mediciones, Posicionamientos y Diagnósticos Competitivos, Juan Ramón Oreja Rodríguez

To be emailed about new material on
please enter your email address here:

I want to Subscribe: & click below
I want to Unsubscribe: & click below

Please set your SPAM filter to accept emails from welcomes your comments:

Your email address (if you want us to reply):


ForumRasch Measurement Forum to discuss any Rasch-related topic

Go to Top of Page
Go to index of all Rasch Measurement Transactions
AERA members: Join the Rasch Measurement SIG and receive the printed version of RMT
Some back issues of RMT are available as bound volumes
Subscribe to Journal of Applied Measurement

Go to Institute for Objective Measurement Home Page. The Rasch Measurement SIG (AERA) thanks the Institute for Objective Measurement for inviting the publication of Rasch Measurement Transactions on the Institute's website,

Coming Rasch-related Events
March 31, 2017, Fri. Conference: 11th UK Rasch Day, Warwick, UK,
April 2-3, 2017, Sun.-Mon. Conference: Validity Evidence for Measurement in Mathematics Education (V-M2Ed), San Antonio, TX, Information
April 26-30, 2017, Wed.-Sun. NCME, San Antonio, TX, - April 29: Ben Wright book
April 27 - May 1, 2017, Thur.-Mon. AERA, San Antonio, TX,
May 26 - June 23, 2017, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
June 30 - July 29, 2017, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
July 31 - Aug. 3, 2017, Mon.-Thurs. Joint IMEKO TC1-TC7-TC13 Symposium 2017: Measurement Science challenges in Natural and Social Sciences, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
Aug. 7-9, 2017, Mon-Wed. In-person workshop and research coloquium: Effect size of family and school indexes in writing competence using TERCE data (C. Pardo, A. Atorressi, Winsteps), Bariloche Argentina. Carlos Pardo, Universidad Catòlica de Colombia
Aug. 7-9, 2017, Mon-Wed. PROMS 2017: Pacific Rim Objective Measurement Symposium, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia,
Aug. 10, 2017, Thurs. In-person Winsteps Training Workshop (M. Linacre, Winsteps), Sydney, Australia.
Aug. 11 - Sept. 8, 2017, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (E. Smith, Facets),
Aug. 18-21, 2017, Fri.-Mon. IACAT 2017: International Association for Computerized Adaptive Testing, Niigata, Japan,
Sept. 15-16, 2017, Fri.-Sat. IOMC 2017: International Outcome Measurement Conference, Chicago,
Oct. 13 - Nov. 10, 2017, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Jan. 5 - Feb. 2, 2018, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Jan. 10-16, 2018, Wed.-Tues. In-person workshop: Advanced Course in Rasch Measurement Theory and the application of RUMM2030, Perth, Australia (D. Andrich), Announcement
Jan. 17-19, 2018, Wed.-Fri. Rasch Conference: Seventh International Conference on Probabilistic Models for Measurement, Matilda Bay Club, Perth, Australia, Website
May 25 - June 22, 2018, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
June 29 - July 27, 2018, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Further Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
Aug. 10 - Sept. 7, 2018, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Many-Facet Rasch Measurement (E. Smith, Facets),
Oct. 12 - Nov. 9, 2018, Fri.-Fri. On-line workshop: Practical Rasch Measurement - Core Topics (E. Smith, Winsteps),
The HTML to add "Coming Rasch-related Events" to your webpage is:
<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>


The URL of this page is