Construction Versus Choice in Cognitive Measurement: Issues in Constructed Response, Performance Testing, and Portfolio Assessment

By Randy Elliot Bennett; William C. Ward | Go to book overview

related to the marker abilities, which had been posited a priori to be related differentially to performance of M-C and C-R tests.

The two studies by Bennett and others were of knowledge and skill in computer programming. The responses analyzed in these studies were elicited in administrations of the Advanced Placement Computer Science (ACPS) Examination to high school students. This examination includes both M-C and C-R items. The M-C items in both studies were parceled into groups of 10 items or more, with each parcel defining a separate variable. Each C-R item was treated as a separate variable, with the responses to these items rated for quality on a 10-point scale. A covariance structure model with just one factor was judged to provide an acceptable fit to the matrices of correlation coefficients for M-C and C-R variables in these studies. This model implies that the M-C and C-R variables measured the same constellation of characteristics. It is noteworthy, however, that when a model including separate factors for the variables of each format was fit to the data obtained in the study conducted by Bennett et al. ( 1991), the disattenuated coefficients of correlation between the two factors were significantly, albeit not substantially, less than unity.


Conclusion

To return to the question asked at the outset of this chapter: Do M-C and C-R tests of the same content measure different characteristics? There is too little sound evidence in hand for any answer to this question to be trusted. Still, if answers are attempted, then they must vary by domain. For the writing domain, the answer would appear to be that tests in different formats do measure different characteristics, although two of the three studies that were reviewed were beset by methodological problems that make it necessary to qualify the answer. For the word knowledge domain, the answer may also be "yes," but the results for the two studies in this domain are contradictory. For reading comprehension and the quantitative domain, the answer is probably that tests that differ by format do not measure different characteristics. Regardless of content domain, however, if differences do exist for any domain, they are very likely to be small, at least as measured by the amount of score variance accounted for.

An unsurprising corollary conclusion is that there is no good answer to the question of what it is that is different, if anything, about the characteristics measured by M-C and C-R items. Whether or not the foregoing conclusions are accepted depends perhaps as much on the theoretical perspective one brings to a review of the literature as on the evidence itself. For this reason, it is useful to consider the theories advanced in the work that has been reviewed.

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