Bruce Albert Bracken, Ph.D.


Tests Developed:
Bracken Basic Concepts Scale
Assessment of Interpersonal Relations
Multidimensional Concept Scale
Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (with R. S. McCallum)

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Affiliation: Professor and Director, Child and Family Studies, University of Memphis
Born: November 5, 1949; Flint, Michigan
Education: B.S., College of Charleston; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Georgia

Influences

There are two individuals who influenced my interest in psychoeducational assessment and test construction, E. Paul Torrance and Alan S. Kaufman. Dr. Kaufman was my major professor, and Dr. Torrance was the Chairman of the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Georgia. Alan had come to the University of Georgia as an assistant professor from The Psychological Corporation, where he had been the project director of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R; Wechsler, 1974) and McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities (McCarthy, 1972). Paul Torrance is internationally recognized for his work in creativity and for his widely translated and universally used scale, the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (Torrance, 1966).

I had the honor of serving as Alan’s graduate assistant in his intellectual assessment and preschool assessment classes, and he supervised my master’s and doctoral theses. In addition, he and his wife, Nadeen, invited me, among others, to participate in the development of the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC; Kaufman & Kaufman, 1983). The K-ABC was my first nonacademic experience with test development, and it heightened my interest in intelligence as an important psychological construct.

Paul Torrance fostered my interest in developing new and unique ways to solve problems or develop products through creative thinking. Creativity is a somewhat amorphous construct, but creative thinking is essential for producing solutions to the complex,

 

modern-day problems that we currently face.

As a result of my interactions with Alan and Paul, I developed a career interest in psychological construct refinement, measurement, test development, and creative problem solving. After graduating from the University of Georgia, I immediately began three assessment-related projects, in addition to pursuing empirical research. The first projects, the Bracken Basic Concepts Scale (BBCS; Bracken, 1984; BBCS-R, in press) and the co-edited book, Psychoeducational Assessment of Preschool Children (Paget & Bracken, 1982; Bracken, 1991), established my interests in early childhood assessment and test construction. The third project, which was a collaborative effort with R. Steve McCallum, was our founding of the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment. JPA published its first volume in 1983 and has continued to publish on a quarterly basis since.

During the late 1980s my assessment interests expanded to include child and adolescent social-emotional functioning and adjustment. During this period, I developed a model of social-emotional assessment that systematically allows for the inclusion and consideration of assessment data from children’s major life contexts (e.g., social, competence, affect, academic, family, and physical), contexts in which all children and adolescents function on a daily basis. I had begun teaching students and workshop attendees about my "context-dependent, multidimensional" assessment model, and I have conducted this workshop for psychologists in more than 25 states. This assessment model presents a systematic approach to instrument selection and use; a method for interpreting individual tests and integrating test results across psychoeducational batteries; and a comprehensive guide to social-emotional intervention planning and report writing. Based on this model, I developed and published the


Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale (Bracken, 1992), the Assessment of Interpersonal Relations (Bracken, 1993), and the edited text, Handbook of Self-Concept: Developmental, Clinical, and Social Considerations (Bracken, 1996).

During the period between my preschool research and the later adolescent social-emotional projects, I developed an interest in test translation and cross-cultural assessment. With multinational collaborators, we developed and implemented a validation of a "state-of-the-art" translation of the BBCS into Spanish, and later Japanese. With some regret, I came to realize that hundreds of languages are spoken daily by the students in today’s urban and rural school systems due to the rapidly shifting world population. It became obvious that test translation and validation efforts would not meet the dramatically growing need for psychoeducational instrumentation to serve the culturally diverse populations in the U.S. public schools. With this realization in mind, R. Steve McCallum and I began work on developing and pilot testing a comprehensive, totally nonverbal measure of intelligence for children 5 to 17 years of age.

The Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT; Bracken & McCallum, 1998) was developed with the goal of providing practitioners with an effective tool for assessing the general intellectual abilities of children who are unfairly disadvantaged by traditional language-loaded intelligence tests because of cultural/language differences (e.g., limited English proficiency, English as a second language); language disorders (e.g., language learning disabilities); emotional or psychiatric disorders (e.g., autism, selective mutism; extreme shyness); hearing impairments or deafness; and any of the many other reasons that children might be disadvantaged by a language-loaded intelligence test (e.g., cultural/dialectical language differences).

 

The UNIT was based theoretically on a two-by-two model that posits memory as the foundation of learning and reasoning as the cornerstone of intelligence; Memory and Reasoning represent the two UNIT Primary Scales. The model also posits that information can be mediated symbolically (e.g., through subvocalization, verbal mediation) or nonsymbolically. The

UNIT’s Secondary Scales represent both Symbolic and Nonsymbolic Mediation. The Primary and Secondary Scales both cut across the six UNIT subtests. Of primary interest to the authors was to develop an instrument that was a sound measure of general intelligence and that required absolutely no language on behalf of the examiner or the examinee. Thus, the UNIT was theoretically represented in a hierarchical model with g at the apex, followed by a crossed-factor arrangement of two primary and two secondary scales.

This comprehensive measure of intelligence is administered solely through the use of gestures, demonstrations, and the generous number of sample items that communicate task requirements and expectations. In addition to providing a totally nonverbal and reliable estimate of intelligence, the UNIT was subjected to an extensive array of "fairness" investigations and analyses to ensure that the instrument is fair to the populations for which it is intended to be used.

Thoughts on Being a Test Developer

In the early 1980s I wrote an article that was very critical of an existing test, and a colleague quipped, "Anyone who aspires to develop and publish tests should not write an article that is that critical." Over the years, that colleague’s comment has caused me to be ever vigilant during the development of each test I have published and has been a constant reminder of my goal to create the best tests possible.


As a child who frequently "tinkered" in his father’s workshop, I have enjoyed test construction because it has allowed me to tinker in psychology. I have enjoyed examining and experimenting with psychological constructs, scales, subtests, item formats, and item wording. And, I am continually made aware of how important every individual word is within test items. On the MSCS there is an item that was intended to assess the extent to which other children find the examinee attractive. The item reads, "Members of the opposite sex find me desirable." The item wording seemed innocuous to me; however, one large city school system withdrew from the MSCS standardization because a parent was outraged that I would ask about his child’s "sexual desirability" on my self-concept scale—I learned to never again write items that include the word "sex," especially when linked with "desirable."

Advice for Individuals Interested in Test Development

The advice I have for individuals interested in test development is fairly general. Psychological test developers must have mastery of written and spoken English (or other languages as appropriate), well-honed measurement skills, a depth of knowledge about various psychological constructs, astute clinical judgment, and common sense about how others may perceive or react to test items (for instance, don’t include the words sex and desirability in the same item). Beyond these characteristics, test developers should have patience and enjoy examining the ways in which examinees react to test items, test directions, and stimulus materials.

References

Bracken, B. A. (1984). Bracken Basic Concepts Scale. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Bracken, B. A. (Ed.). (1991). Psychoeducational Assessment of Preschool Children (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Bracken, B. A. (1992). Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Bracken, B. A. (1993). Assessment of Interpersonal Relations. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Bracken, B. A. (Ed.). (1996). Handbook of Self-Concept: Developmental, Social, and Clinical Considerations. New York: Wiley.

Bracken, B. A. (in press). Bracken Basic Concepts Scale-Revised. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Bracken, B. A., & McCallum, R. S. (1998). Universal Nonverbal Intelligence Test (UNIT). Chicago: Riverside Publishing.

Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (1983). Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

McCarthy, D. (1972). McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Paget, K. D., & Bracken, B. A. (1982). Psychoeducational Assessment of Preschool Children. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.

Torrance, E. P. (1966). Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Service.

Wechsler, D. (1974). Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.



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