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Comparison of Assessment Tool Constructs

Comparison of Assessment Tool Constructs


The assessment toolkit is one of the practices used in counseling. Various toolkits present in different social spheres make counselors capable of evaluating and characterizing different phenomena. However, some toolkits may differ in their parameters. That is why it is important for the specialists to be skillful in their analysis. One of the key measurements that enables the counseling practitioner to do that is the constructs of reliability and validity. Such analysis is the research assessment and interpretation defining the contrast of different norms and means as well as cutoff scores. Moreover, the evaluation of the correlation of these parameters in one tool in addition to the contrast with the others is important.

The assessment tools analyzed in this paper are the Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST) and the Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory-3 (SASSI-3). Both tests aim at the definition of the degree of a person’s dependence from the alcohol and drug substances. The paper evaluates the reliability and validity of the given assessment tools defining their applicability towards the detection of the specified issue. Moreover, it assesses their administration, scoring, interpretation, use and popularity, psychometric properties and presents the conclusion. Consequently, one presumes that he or she might use different toolkits in different situations regarding the revealed aspects.

Contrasting MAST and SASSI-3

Defining Validity and Reliability

The assessment practice includes the evaluation of information aiming to detect, analyze, and address the revealed issues, problems, and circumstances. One needs to be capable of dealing the described issues to assist the clients in the counseling practice. A skillful counseling practitioner uses assessment for the detection of the issues and problems, foster planning, assessing clients as well as informing the stakeholders. Balkin and Juhnkle (2014) state that a common mistake for the novice in counseling includes identification assessment as a means to an end, such as to providing a label or diagnosis to a client. Oppositely, one would advise to define it as a practice identifying “statements, actions, and procedures to help individuals, groups, couples, and families make progress in the counseling environment” (Balkin& Juhnkle, 2014). It is worth to mention that counselors may restrict their volume of practice regarding the scope of their work with situations, theories, and clients. However, counseling practitioners become experts only in case they understand the processes and procedures of assessment and evaluation. In this respect, one of the basic and the most critical aspects of work is the ability to assess the reliability and validity of one’s evaluation toolkit.

To successfully implement the framework of reliability and validity, one needs to define them. Davis and Morrow (n.d.) refer to reliability as “the desired consistency (or reproducibility) of test scores”. This criterion refers to the steadiness of examinee’s comparative performances over repetitive supervisions of the same test or its variations (Davis& Morrow, n.d.). Thus, a useful assessment tool is a reliable one. If one uses this characteristic to produce non-reliable decisions, it concludes that the decisions do not reflect the adequate information. That is why the criteria of reliability assist the counseling practitioner in sorting between sound and ill-informed toolkits.

Furthermore, another basic component of test development and evaluation is validation. Davis and Morrow (n.d.) regard validity as the extent to which verification and hypothesis sustain the explanation of test results entailed by the projected employments of tests. The scholars also claim that “validity is a … comprehensive evaluative judgment of the degree to which empirical evidence and theoretical rationales support the adequacy and appropriateness of interpretations and actions” (Davis & Morrow, n.d.). Consequently, the actions and interpretations are based on test scores or other modes of assessment. Also, one may consider validity a unitary concept that includes various ways of obtaining data that contribute to it. Moreover, it is not the feature of the test but the meaning of the scores in the test. At the same time, validation is a continuous process that should support test scores (Davis & Morrow, n.d.). Realizing the concept and the role of validity and reliability, a counseling expert has the strongest evaluation toolkit for one’s inventory. Further, the paper analyzes the MAST and SASSI-3 tests through the defined framework of reliability and validity.

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Defining the Credibility of the Tests

As one can clearly determine, both tests aim at recognition and evaluation of the individual’s dependence on drug substances. However, the analysis of their structure, administering, scoring, interpretation, and psychometric properties reveal various aspects regarding their strength and consistency. To define their credibility, one interprets the mentioned aspects through the framework of validity and credibility. Such measure assures their efficient analysis and enhances the objectivity of the analysis.

MAST is a test developed in 1971 not as a stand-alone diagnostic tool but for screening purposes. It provides a convenient and efficient measure of lifetime alcoholism and alcohol-related problems (Conoley, n.d.). The test has a 25-item questionnaire with a “yes” or “no” response. All items have different weight and provide a total score. Scores vary from 0 to 53 where the higher scores indicate the alcohol dependence issue. All of the items address the factors connected with drinking. For instance, such factors are reasons, consequences of drinking, and drinking-related behavior. Additionally, Murdoch (n.d.) reports that one can complete the test in 15 minutes, and its individual items show good internal consistency and test-retest reliability. One of the factors that add to its validity is the ability of the detection of cheating in answers to minimize false negatives. The experiments have shown that 92% of a group of known alcoholics who were instructed to lie on the measure were correctly classified (Murdoch, n.d.). One presumes that such tool should be implemented into any assessment test to raise its credibility and objectivity.

At the same time, SASSI-3 addresses the broader range of issues. Fernandez (n.d.) evaluates this test as making inferences about substance dependence disorder. Thus, some part of it addresses the problems with the alcohol use, whereas another one concerns other drug substances. The test is dated 1988 and includes two parts. One of them has 14 face valid items, and another one contains 67 items. The first part of the test has a scale of four points. At the same time, the second part has a true-false format. Additionally, the answers have the time frame indicator ranging from entire life to the past, before or since the last six months. Due to the fact that the test evaluates a broad range of factors, it has nine subclasses addressing alcohol, other drugs, symptoms, attributes and so on. One of the factors that seriously raise its validity is the Random Answer Pattern (RAP) enabling the detection of false answers (Pittenger, n.d.).

The MAST was developed to be administered in oral or written form. Despite the fact that it was initially invented for an oral examination, scholars have revealed its high reliability when being completed in paper-and-pencil format (Conoley, n.d.). Additionally, it has computerized versions. The test can also be executed by a professional and non-professional. However, one presumes such variety might negatively influence its objectiveness in case of being performed by a non-skilled practitioner. Although the initial format of the test indicated a score of five as alcoholic, later investigations proposed to elevate the cutoff scores to increase specificity. Assessing its reliability, one should indicate that its test-retest characteristics vary. Moreover, Murdoch (n.d.) indicates that some items on the MAST tend to be endorsed infrequently reducing their contribution to discriminating between alcoholics and non-alcoholics. Along with that, MST is capable of the correct identification of alcoholics from 79% to 100%, non-alcoholics from 36% to 95% (Murdoch, n.d.). The only negative issue affecting its reliability and validity concerns the classification in general psychiatric populations. The reason for this is that the test tends to produce a great number of false positives.

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In its turn, SASSI-3 has written and oral formats as well as the computerized one. Additionally, it has an audio edition designed for people with reading difficulties. One should interpret the scores with a reference to decision rule stipulating cutoffs for each subscale (Fernandez, n.d.). Thus, if the administrator exceeds the rules of a test, it leads to the indication of a high probability of a substance dependence disorder. That is why one presumes SASSI-3 requires to be performed by the qualified specialist to eliminate false positives and misinterpretations. Moreover, the studies comparing SASSI-3 with other tests have revealed that its results correlate with their scores. At the same time, Fernandez (n.d.) indicates that it was no more accurate than its counterparts and did not show incremental utility. Further studies showed that the results provided by SASSI-3 have lower accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity in patients with traumatic brain injury. One aspect that confuses the reliability of the test is the evaluation of substance dependence disorders. The reason for this is that it has no indications of the difference between the substance use disorders. Moreover, the practitioners confuse the results providing the references to the use, abuse or misuse of the substance. Fernandez (n.d.) regards that “the SASSI-3 can be used to flag for further evaluation of substance abuse disorder”. Thus, it gives just the average picture by indicating the degree of the problems connected with substance use disorders.

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After evaluating the reliability and validity of the MAST and SASSI-3, one can stress that both tests have their benefits and drawbacks. For instance, MAST is more reliable in detecting alcoholic issues, whereas SASSI-3 is capable of defining the broader range of issues. However, SASSI-3 has weaker accuracy towards those who abuse alcoholic substances. At the same time, being valid and reliable for the majority of people, both tests have problems when assessing the individuals that have psychic deviances.

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Summarizing the presented information, the paper comes to the conclusion that MAST and SASSI-3 have their benefits and drawbacks in terms of reliability and validity. Both tests are reliable and valid enough for the aspects of their application that is supported by their widespread usage since the 1980s. Furthermore, both tests have implemented false-positive or random answer questions pattern that raises their sufficiency. However, they require a qualified specialist when facing the individuals with psychic disorders. Thus, they are valid for the identification of people attempting to cheat when answering. At the same time, being broader, SASSI-3 does not assure the complete diagnosis and just indicates the direction for further investigations. That is why one would advise MAST for a client that needs the most efficient test in terms of detection of alcohol abuse or misuse. At the same time, SASSI-3 is valid in defining a broader range of aspects. Moreover, both tests can be quickly and easily administered and summarized. Their high psychometric properties add to their validity and reliability and denote that they were invented by the credible specialists.