Playing Tight and Loose

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As I noted in an earlier post, if you are intent on surveying a university's teaching provision for evidence of the extent, and nature, of how this work focuses on sustainability issues, you are faced with a choice of how tight or loose a conceptual framing to adopt.  This boils down to whether, and how clearly, you are going to pre-specify what is to count as a focus on sustainability for the purposes of the data collection.  This has implications for validity.

If you go for a tight specification, you need to use text such as:

"... by a focus on sustainability, we mean xxxx."

... and if a loose one, you need to use say something such as:

"... a focus on sustainability, for example, xxxx."

What you cannot surely do is to say nothing at all, unless you are content to have very sub-optimal construct validity in whatever emerges, although even this, as I have also noted, can sometimes serve (political) ends.  I can only hope that the people behind the LIFE index have the courage to go for tight and conceptually meaningful framings when they set out to score universities' teaching focused on sustainability.

Posted in: Comment


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