How do validity experts conceptualise argumentation? It's a rhetorical question

Benjamin Kinnear*, Abigail Martini, Lara Varpio, Erik W. Driessen, Daniel J. Schumacher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Health professions education (HPE) has adopted the conceptualization of validity as an argument. However, the theoretical and practical aspects of how validity arguments should be developed, used and evaluated in HPE have not been deeply explored. Articulating the argumentation theory undergirding validity and validation can help HPE better operationalise validity as an argument. To better understand this, the authors explored how HPE validity scholars conceptualise assessment validity arguments and argumentation, seeking to understand potential consequences of these views on validation practices. Methods: The authors used critical case sampling to identify HPE assessment validity experts in three ways: (1) participation in a prominent validity research group, (2) appearing in a bibliometric study of HPE validity publications and (3) authorship of recent HPE validity literature. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 experts in HPE assessment validity from four different countries. The authors used reflexive thematic analysis to develop themes relevant to their research question. Results: The authors developed three themes grounded in participants' responses: (1) In theory, HPE validity is a social and situated argument. (2) In practice, the absence of audience and evaluation stymies the social nature of HPE validity. (3) Lack of validity argumentation creates and maintains power differentials within HPE. Participants articulated that current HPE validation practices are rooted in post-positivist epistemology when they should be situated (i.e. context-dependent), audience-centric and inclusive. Discussion: When discussing validity argumentation in theory, participants' descriptions reflect an interpretivist lens for evaluation that is misaligned with real-world validity practices. This misalignment likely arises from HPE's adoption of “validity as an argument” as a slogan, without integrating theoretical and practical principles of argumentation theory.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Education
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes


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