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Generalizability Theory

  • By: Noreen M. Webb & Richard J. Shavelson
  • In: Encyclopedia of Educational Psychology
  • Edited by: Neil J. Salkind
  • Subject:School/Educational Psychology (general), Educational Psychology, School Psychology

Generalizability (G) theory is a statistical theory for evaluating the dependability (“reliability”) of behavioral measurements. G theory pinpoints the sources of systematic and unsystematic measurement error, disentangles them, and then estimates their magnitudes simultaneously.

In G theory, a behavioral measurement (e.g., an academic self-concept score) is conceived of as a sample from a universe of admissible observations. This universe consists of all possible observations that decision makers consider to be acceptable substitutes (e.g., scores sampled on Occasions 2 and 3) for the observation in hand (scores on Occasion 1). Each characteristic of the measurement situation (e.g., survey form, item, occasion, rater) is a potential source of error and is called a facet of a measurement. The universe of admissible observations is defined by all possible combinations ...

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