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Content validity of independently constructed curriculum -based examinations

Elias Watson Jani Chakwera, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This study investigated the content validity of two independently constructed tests based on the Malawi School Certificate History syllabus. The key question was: To what extent do independently constructed examinations equivalently sample items from the same content and cognitive domains? This question was meant to examine the assumption that tests based on the same syllabus produce results that can be interpreted in similar manner in certification or promotion decisions on examinees without regard to the examination they took. In Malawi, such a study was important to provide evidence for the justification for using national examination results in placement and selection decisions. Based on Cronbach's (1971) proposal, two teams of three teachers were drawn from six schools that were purposefully selected to participate in this study. Each team constructed a test using the Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) History syllabus. The two tests were put together in a common mock examination, which was first piloted before the final form. Two hundred examinees from the participating schools took the common mock examination. Paired scores from the two tests and the same examinees' scores on MSCE History 1A were used in the analysis of testing the mean difference of dependent samples and variance comparison. Subject matter experts' ratings were used to evaluate content and cognitive relevance of the items in the test. The findings indicate that MSCE syllabus was a well-defined operational universe of admissible observations because independently constructed tests equivalently tapped the same content. Their mean difference was not statistically different from zero and the mean of the squared difference scores was less than the sum of the split-half error variances. It was therefore, concluded that the two independently constructed were statistically equivalent. The two tests were also found to be statistically equivalent to the 2003 MSCE History 1A. However, the presence of stray items indicated syllabus looseness that needed redress to improve content coverage. Inadequacy in the rating of cognitive levels was noted as a problem for further research. The need to improve examinations was advocated in view of the their great influence in instruction and assessment decisions or practices.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Chakwera, Elias Watson Jani, "Content validity of independently constructed curriculum -based examinations" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3136715.