A contemporary approach to validity arguments: A practical guide to Kane's framework

David A. Cook, Ryan Brydges, Shiphra Ginsburg, Rose Hatala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Scopus citations


Context: Assessment is central to medical education and the validation of assessments is vital to their use. Earlier validity frameworks suffer from a multiplicity of types of validity or failure to prioritise among sources of validity evidence. Kane's framework addresses both concerns by emphasising key inferences as the assessment progresses from a single observation to a final decision. Evidence evaluating these inferences is planned and presented as a validity argument. Objectives: We aim to offer a practical introduction to the key concepts of Kane's framework that educators will find accessible and applicable to a wide range of assessment tools and activities. Results: All assessments are ultimately intended to facilitate a defensible decision about the person being assessed. Validation is the process of collecting and interpreting evidence to support that decision. Rigorous validation involves articulating the claims and assumptions associated with the proposed decision (the interpretation/use argument), empirically testing these assumptions, and organising evidence into a coherent validity argument. Kane identifies four inferences in the validity argument: Scoring (translating an observation into one or more scores); Generalisation (using the score[s] as a reflection of performance in a test setting); Extrapolation (using the score[s] as a reflection of real-world performance), and Implications (applying the score[s] to inform a decision or action). Evidence should be collected to support each of these inferences and should focus on the most questionable assumptions in the chain of inference. Key assumptions (and needed evidence) vary depending on the assessment's intended use or associated decision. Kane's framework applies to quantitative and qualitative assessments, and to individual tests and programmes of assessment. Conclusions: Validation focuses on evaluating the key claims, assumptions and inferences that link assessment scores with their intended interpretations and uses. The Implications and associated decisions are the most important inferences in the validity argument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)560-575
Number of pages16
JournalMedical education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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