Welcome to the Cognitive Science and Assessment Blog

We are the Cognitive Science and Assessment Special
Interest Group (SIG)
of the American
Educational Research Association (AERA)
. The SIG is made up of
people who are interested in the intersection of cognitive science
and assessment especially as applied to education. If you are
interested in any of those topics, then you are among our target

The bloggers for this site are mostly professionals in the field along
with some graduate students. We expect that many of the readers will
be graduate students, so we will try to keep discussions at that
level. However, that still means that there will still likely be a
lot of jargon, especially about measurement (i.e., assessment or
testing) that will be difficult to understand for a lay audience. If
you are interested in the topics in this blog, but are having trouble
with the jargon, we would like to recommend the collection of
educational resources about assessment available at
the National Council on Measurement in
Education (NCME)

Why a blog?

The idea came from a conversation I had with SIG President Andre Rupp,
as well as a number of others, about how to better foster a sense of
community among SIG members, particularly between the annual meetings
of the AERA. My idea was that a technical blog, something at about
the level of Andrew Gelman’s
Statistical Modeling Blog
, something that would encourage
discussion about topics that were technical but not so technical that
only a few people could understand them, would encourage people to
spend time discussing with each other. Furthermore, by encouraging a
highly literate and technical audience, we would get technically
interesting and useful discussions.

A second reason for starting a blog is that there are a high number of
semi-technical topics that we need to work through in our field:
things which are too well understood to be the subject of papers, but
not well enough worked out to be in the standard textbooks. Take the
issue of how long an assessment should be, especially a
cognitively diagnostic assessment which measures multiple aspects of
proficiency. The [APA/AERA/NCME Joint] Standards state that the
assessment needs to be of a length that is suitable to its purpose.
Anybody who has done assessment design knows that there are a lot of
complex considerations that the designers need to balance when
deciding on the length of the assessment. My goal is not to work this
issue now (good topic for a future post), but rather to point out that
a lively discussion from multiple experts in the field would benefit
both the community of practitioners and students trying to learn both
the art and science of assessment.

But aren’t blogs dead?

I’ve seen on the internet lately (ironically from blogs I follow)
several posts indicating that blogging is a dead art. I think that
the truth is we are just now discovering what it is that blogs are
best at. Mailing lists work well for calls for papers and post-doc
positions, but they don’t really encourage discussions. After all,
there are many times in my life when I want less rather than more
email. Facebook and LinkedIn work well for keeping friends and
colleagues updated about your life, but again are not the right forum
for technical discussions. Twitter is very good at capturing
reactions to other content, but not on originated the content itself
(especially not anything that would take more than 140 characters to

So what is the niche for a blog? I think the answer is just what we
are proposing to do: short technical articles followed by technical
discussion. Unlike media companies, we don’t need an ever wider
audience to sell to advertisers to pay our salaries. Instead we need
the right audience (if you have read this far I hope that includes
you) to keep the discussion lively and interesting.

Who are the participants?

My goal initially is to have enough entries in the queue to be able to
post a new entry every week. At least initially, my goal is to get
enough co-bloggers who commit to one article per month (or even less)
that we have a good queue of material to post without anybody going
nuts (in my case, that may be too late). Andre and I have already
reached out to a number of you (although I have forgotten some of the
people I have talked to about this). If you are willing to
contribute, contact Russell Almond or Matthew Madison.

Of course, some of the most important positions in a blog are the
commenters. If you want to join the conversation you are welcome to
contribute below. As long as you have an interest in cognition,
assessment or both and are willing to maintain an appropriate level of
professional courtesy we welcome you. This is not an official
publication of the AERA or the Cognition and Assessment SIG, and
all opinions are those of the bloggers and commenters and not
representative of any particular institution, particularly the
places where they are employed.
However, we are unofficial
representatives of those institutions and we expect that all discussion
will follow the standards of professional behaviour we have come to

What do you think about this idea?

Your comments about the new blog, what its scope and rules should be,
what topics we should cover, &c are welcome below.