The retrospective pretest–posttest design redux: On its validity as an alternative to traditional pretest–posttest measurement

Todd D. Little, Rong Chang, Britt K. Gorrall, Luke Waggenspack, Eriko Fukuda, Patricia J. Allen, Gil G. Noam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


We revisit the merits of the retrospective pretest–posttest (RPP) design for repeated-measures research. The underutilized RPP method asks respondents to rate survey items twice during the same posttest measurement occasion from two specific frames of reference: “now” and “then.” Individuals first report their current attitudes or beliefs following a given intervention, and next they are prompted to think back to a specific time prior to the given intervention and rate the item again retrospectively. The design addresses many of the validity concerns that plague the traditional pretest–posttest design. Particularly when measuring noncognitive constructs, the RPP design allows participants to gauge the degree of change that they experience with greater awareness and precision than a traditional approach. We review the undesirable features of traditional designs and highlight the benefits of the retrospective approach. We offer examples from two recent, original studies and conclude with the recommendation that the RPP design be employed more broadly. We also conclude with a discussion of important directions for future examination of this design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020



  • Methodology
  • pretest–posttest design
  • retrospective assessment

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