Are Lectical Assessments fair?

How to create a fair assessment

To create a fair developmental assessment, the first thing you need to do is build an understanding of how development progresses, both in terms of learning mechanisms and in terms of the ways in which particular ideas and skills develop over time. So, to get started, my colleagues and I set out to study learning. We started by collecting a wide range of cognitive-developmental assessments that required explanatory open-ended responses, then studied these responses, using a set of research methods called developmental maieutics, to exhaustively document the meanings embedded in them. Then, in 2002 we began conducting research with our own developmental assessments. By 2022, we had collected responses to over 50,000 assessments and interviews. We routinely documented the meanings contained in every single performance, constantly on the lookout for new meanings or new ways of expressing already documented meanings.

Lectical Level & Sex

As of this writing, there are 5,717 scored assessments for which we have sex and educational level (grade) data. We used ANCOVA to ask if, after controlling for educational level, sex had an impact on adults’ Lectical Scores. We found no difference in mean Lectical Level for males and females. Mean Lectical Scores for adult males and females are the same—1097.

Male = 1, Female = 2

Lectical Level & First Language

As of this writing, there are 6,666 adult assessments for which we have first language information and educational level (grade). As you can see in the Estimated Marginal Means table below, the ESL (English as a second language) mean score appears to be one point higher than the mean score for native English speakers. Surprising! However, this apparent difference is not statistically significant, which means we cannot say for sure whether or not the mean scores are different from one another. It is also very small, far below measurement error, and would have no impact on decision-making, even in high-stakes situations like recruitment or college admissions.

0 = English is 2nd language, 1 = English is 1st language

Lectical Level & Ethnicity/Race

As of this writing, there are 6,549 adult assessments in our database for which we have both ethnicity/race and educational level data.


We’ve worked hard to create a scoring method for Lectical Assessments that is bias free. Our approach has been to ensure that we base this scoring method on exhaustive and inclusive research into the ways in which ideas and skills develop across the lifespan. The evidence so far strongly suggests that our efforts have been rewarded.


[1] The jamovi project (2021). jamovi. (Version 1.6) [Computer Software]. Retrieved from Jamovi site.

ViP info | ViP rationale



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Theo Dawson

Theo Dawson

Award-winning educator, scholar, & consultant, Dr. Theo Dawson, discusses a wide range of topics related to learning and development.