#OTalk Research Tuesday 3rd July: Face validity: what is it, why is it important and how do we evaluate it?

This week’s chat is on the topic of Face validity and will be hosted by Dr Alison Laver-Fawcett, Associate Professor at York St John University (@alisonlaverfaw).  Here is what Alison had to say…

Face validity is the extent an assessment subjectively appears to test what it is supposed to; good face validity ensures an assessment is client-centred, acceptable to the test-taker, and to the person administering it (Asher 2007).

I conducted my first face validity study around 1990-1 when I was undertaking a project to develop, standardise and evaluate the psychometric properties of an assessment, the Structured Observational Test of Function (SOTOF), as the focus for my PhD studies. At the time I struggled to find face validity reported and discussed in occupational therapy literature. A key psychometric text I was drawing on at the time by Anastasi (1988) also had noted there was a “paucity of available research on face validity, despite its probable contribution to prevalent attitudes towards tests” (p. 145). The COSMIN checklist manual (Mokkink et al., 2012: 31) stated that no standards were developed for assessing face validity because ‘face validity requires a subjective judgement’, so unlike other types of validity and reliability, there is a lack of agreed standards for face validity studies

Years later when writing about validity for a text book I found there was still a lack of face validity studies published, not just in occupational therapy but also wider allied health assessment literature. This seems counter-intuitive as occupational therapists are supposed to be client centred; so why aren’t we studying the face validity of occupational therapy assessments and outcome measures as a matter of routine? Do we really think that it doesn’t matter what our clients’ experiences of undertaking an assessment is? Or what they think about what is being assessed /measured and how the assessment is done?

In the last few years I have been undertaking work with occupational therapy students exploring the face validity of a couple of measures. For example, in the final year ‘Dissertation: Contributing to the Evidence base’ module on the Occupational Therapy Programme at York St John University, some small groups of students have been collaborating to undertake face validity studies on the Activity Card Sort – United Kingdom version (e.g. see Laver-Fawcett et al, 2016). This year students have explored the face validity of the SOTOF (2nd edition) with community living older people and a MSc by Research student is exploring the face validity of SOTOF (2nd ed) with people in an in-patient setting who have neurological conditions such as stroke.

In this chat we will explore what face validity is and how it is defined; we will debate whether it is important for occupational therapy researchers to consider face validity (both when developing and evaluating measures and when selecting outcome measures for research); and we will discuss methodology for evaluating and exploring face validity.

Whether you are an experienced researcher, a clinician or a student please join us on 2nd May for this #OTalk twitter chat and share your ideas and experience. It is never too early in your occupational therapy career to start engaging in the development and evaluation of occupational therapy assessments and outcome measures.

Suggested talking points and discussion questions to focus our chat:

  1. What do you understand by the term ‘face validity’? Do you have any definitions that you have found useful?
  2. Why is face validity important to study when developing or selecting occupational therapy assessments and outcome measures?
  3. When selecting an outcome measure for research how could you consider face validity?
  4. Have you ever undertaken research to evaluate the face validity of an assessment or outcome measure? How did you do this?
  5. What methodologies can be used to explore and evaluate face validity?


Asher I.E. (2007) Occupational Therapy Assessment Tools: An annotated index. 3rd ed. Bethesda, American Occupational Therapy Association.

Laver-Fawcett A J, Brain L, Brodie C, Cardy L, Manaton L (2016) The Face Validity and Clinical Utility of the Activity Card Sort – United Kingdom (ACS-UK). British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(8) 492–504. doi:10.1177/0308022616629167. Available from: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0308022616629167 (accessed 25th June 2018).

Mokkink LB, Terwee CB, Patrick DL, Alonso J, Stratford PW, Knol DL, Bouter LM and de Vet HCW (2012) COSMIN checklist manual. Available at: http://www.cosmin.nl/images/upload/files/COSMIN%20checklist%20manual%20v9.pdf (accessed 25 June 2018).

Post chat

Chat host : Dr Alison Laver-Fawcett @alisonlaverfaw

On OTalk account for support: Dr Jenny Preston @preston_jenny

Online transcript

#OTalk Healthcare Social Media Transcript July 3rd 2018

The Numbers

253Avg Tweets/Hour
14Avg Tweets/Participant

#OTalk Participants


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