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Sabine Weinert and Cordula Artelt

Measuring achievement and skills is fundamental in educational research and practice. The usefulness and interpretation of different measures depend on the goals of the assessment, the underlying theoretical account and its methodological implications, and the quality of the assessment itself. Preceded by an introduction, the present chapter first discusses general conceptual and terminological issues and challenges with a focus on the structure of cognitive and academic abilities and the implications for the measurement of skills and achievement. In the next section, we present three different views on competencies as major achievements due to learning and instruction (competencies conceptualized from a functional literacy perspective; modelled with reference to cognitive structures and processes and with reference to subcomponents or qualifications) and draw some general conclusions with respect to the assessment and interpretation of these measures. In the last section, we describe standards and modes of assessment, thereby differentiating between purposes of assessment, standards of test construction and modes of assessment. Implications for (sociological) research are indicated.

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Sabine Weinert, Manja Attig and Hans-Günther Roßbach

Social disparities emerge rather early in development and are well documented when children are three years of age. The present chapter focuses on their early roots and emergence using data of a German large-scale infant cohort study (first assessment wave) when children were about six to eight months of age. Drawing on a bio-ecological model of child development, the chapter reports on analyses of social disparities in the home-learning environment, i.e. the quality of mother’s interaction behaviour, on the one hand, and social disparities in various indicators of early child development (e.g. sensorimotor development, information processing, child characteristics in mother–child interaction) on the other. As expected the child’s and mother’s behaviour in mother–child interaction proved to be highly interrelated; however, social disparities were mainly observable in the mother’s behaviour and hardly any in early child development.