Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 411-427

First online:

Operational Definitions and Assessment of Higher-Order Cognitive Constructs

  • Robert L. WilliamsAffiliated withPsychoeducational Studies, The University of Tennessee

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The educational psychology literature is replete with references to higher-order cognitive constructs, such as critical thinking and creativity. Presumably, these constructs represent the primary processes and outcomes that educators should promote in students. For these constructs to be maximally useful, they must be transformed into specific operational definitions that lead to reliable and valid assessment strategies. Minimizing overlap in the definitions and assessment of different concepts would contribute to an orderly accumulation of knowledge about the constructs in question. The ideal would be for each construct to have a definition that is distinct from the definitions of other cognitive constructs. Although higher-order cognitive constructs have much surface appeal, their utility is tied to the clarity and fidelity of their definitions and assessment procedures.

operational definitions cognitive constructs assessment critical thinking creativity