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Constructivist assessment
An assessment strategy might be classified as constructivist to the extent that it

(a) elucidates "local", as opposed to "universal" meanings and practices in individuals or social groups,
(b) focuses upon provisional, rather than 'essential' and unchanging patterns of meaning construction,
(c) considers knowledge to be the production of social and personal processes of meaning-making, and
(d) is more concerned with the viability or pragmatic utility of its application, than with its validity, per se (Polkinghorne, 1992).

This emphasis on local, provisional, and pragmatic assessment of (inter)personal meanings can be illustrated by a closer consideration of two core techniques associated with a constructivist approach, each of which encompasses many different variations.

These include
Although constructivist assessment methods have a history that dates at least back to the 1950s, they are currently enjoying a period of rapid development. In part, this reflects the growing popularity of constructivist and narrative approaches to psychological theory, with their attendant focus on the unique meaning-making processes of individuals and social groups (Neimeyer & Raskin, 2000). In part, their proliferation also reflects the continued elaboration of human science methodology, which has developed along both quantitative lines (as reflected in the range of computer programs for administering and analyzing repertory grids) and qualitative lines (as evidenced in thematic approaches to narrative analysis). Nonetheless, users of constructivist assessment methods confront problems as well as prospects, as they consider how to evaluate the validity and reliability of measures that respect the individuality, complexity, and mutability of the meaning-making processes of their subjects. Preliminary studies of the psychometric adequacy of these methods are encouraging, however, suggesting that the further refinement and application of constructivist assessment will contribute to a more adequate psychological science and practice in the future.

  • Neimeyer, R. A. & Raskin, J. D. (Eds.) (2000). Constructions of disorder.  Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.
  • Polkinghorne, D. E. (1992).  Postmodern epistemology of practice.  In S. Kvale (Ed.), Psychology and postmodernism (pp. 146-165).  Newbury Park: CA: Sage.
Robert A. Neimeyer & Heidi Levitt
Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004