Using Hypercard Technology
to Measure Understanding
Eva L. Baker David Niemi Howard Herl CRESST/University of California, Los Angeles
Great interest in developing alternative, truer measures of student knowledge has stimulated national educational policy development ( National Council on Education Standards and Testing, 1992), state testing innovation ( Baron, 1990), and visions for local educational reform ( L. B. Resnick & D. P. Resnick, 1992). Although research has explored the use of technology in an assessment role, it has focused on computers primarily as a surrogate ( Braun, chap. 11; Shavelson, Baxter, & Pine, 1991), or as an expert scoring system ( Bennett, Rock, & Wang, 1991). Yet the power of technology in an assessment role will be fully realized only if we can unlock its potential to improve the validity, not just the efficiency, of our inferences about student accomplishments. Validity was the main focus of our approach to the application of technology to assessment. An additional constraint was to develop a strategy that used existing software rather than invest in a costly, time-consuming software development effort.
A dual context informed our research. First, we attempted to develop technology-sensitive outcome measures that might be more sensitive to experimental uses of computers in classrooms ( Baker, Gearhart, & Herman, chap. 9). Second, we were interested in generating measures that would respond to calls for expanded validity standards ( Linn, Baker, & Dunbar 1991; Baker, O'Neil, & Linn, in press). These new validity criteria, among others, include cognitive complexity, instructional sensitivity, transfer and generalizability, and fairness. The topic areas we selected for assessment were content in history and science; the cognitive task measured was the degree of understanding students possessed in these content areas. Although some research in our lab had used written explanations as direct measures of student knowledge ( Baker, Freeman, & Clayton, 1991), we wished to explore whether students could demonstrate their