Baylor Associate Professor Grant Morgan, PhD, said he’s hooked on studying the science of measuring cognitive and psychological phenomena — also known as psychometrics. Morgan recently co-authored “Survey Scales: A Guide to Development, Analysis, and Reporting,” a book that explores the science of creating measurement scales. Not surprisingly, his scholarly research focuses on measuring educational data. Morgan teaches courses such as latent variable modeling, item response theory and other advanced quantitative method courses in the School of Education’s Department of Educational Psychology.
Morgan’s book emphasizes the importance of creating high quality survey scales, because the value of data collected from any survey depends in part on the quality of the survey itself, he said. Twice a recipient of the Bruce Thompson Outstanding Paper Award from the Southwest Educational Research Association (SERA), Morgan examines methods by which educational data are analyzed and whether those methods provide trustworthy information.
“Survey Scales” describes conceptualizing a variable to study, developing questions, finalizing the survey, administering it to people, collecting and analyzing data, providing evidence for validity and reliability, and reporting those findings.
Morgan said, “There are other books on how to create surveys, and there are books on how to analyze data collected from surveys. What we wanted to do was to bridge the gap and have a piece that would speak to both ends of the data collection process and go from developing to reporting.”
Survey scales are instruments used to measure variables believed to exist, but physically unobservable. Teacher course evaluations are presented in the form of questionnaires covering a range of qualities and characteristics, are examples of survey scales. Evaluation answers are compiled together and used to infer teaching effectiveness, a variable not directly observable.
Morgan co-authored “Survey Scales” with Robert L. Johnson, PhD, professor of applied measurement at the University of South Carolina, where Morgan earned his PhD and took Johnson’s course on constructing cognitive instruments.
Johnson first approached Morgan about collaborating on a book after Morgan gave a class presentation over theoretical guidance in developing survey scales.
Morgan said that because a book only counts as one publication and typically relies on second-hand research, whereas journal articles tend to be based on primary research and shorter in length, doctoral students and even untenured assistant professors are not encouraged to write books. However, Morgan was not deterred and eagerly agreed to co-author.
“Survey Scales” is intended for grad students and analysts in various fields. The concept of survey scales applies to education, business, nursing, psychology, social sciences and many other professional areas. Due to the vast range of application, Morgan and Johnson use examples from different fields throughout the book.
After coming to Baylor as an assistant professor in 2012, Morgan is teaching his first semester as a tenured associate professor, and uses “Survey Scales” in one of his classes. Morgan said he has wanted to become a professor since his undergraduate education.
“I teach by nature, I’m curious by nature, and being a professor allows me to bring all of that together,” Morgan said. “I love to learn and I don’t see teacher and student as a dichotomy. To me, we’re all on the same continuum; some of us are just farther along than others.”
This was Morgan’s first experience writing a book, which he describes as very collaborative. For some chapters, Morgan took the lead writing, and for other chapters, Johnson took the lead. Morgan said that, while the end product of “Survey Scales” is a source of accomplishment, he enjoyed the process of writing with Johnson as much as the product.
“I felt privileged to be working with Robert because he’s a wonderful person, a wonderful teacher, a wonderful scholar. I looked to him for a lot of guidance in the process,” Morgan said.
In the future, Morgan hopes to write more books about analysis, survey scales and the philosophy behind scientific research. For the present, Morgan is still enjoying the newness of his published work.
“Of course it’s a major relief to have it finished,” Morgan said. “It feels good to have the book out and available. It’s been a part of my professional journey for nearly 10 years, and now that it’s done, it’s a little bittersweet.”
— By Molly Meeker
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