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
elimination strategy on difficult items, and the less able student may use mental construction on an item that is easy enough to allow it ( Snow, 1980, 1989). Thus, it can be hypothesized, for achievement tests also, that the student can make a constructed-response task out of a multiple-choice task at will, and does so as a function of ability-difficulty match.One implication of this last hypothesis is that multiple choice is only multiple choice in the eye of the critic; in the eye of the test taker it is often constructed response. Another implication, however, is that unwanted ability variance is also involved in multiple-choice, not just in constructed-response performance, and may be involved in subtle ways. But the most important implication is that all these issues are complicated and badly in need of research.
Psychometric Adequacy
Although this chapter has centered on psychological issues deserving attention, there are, of course, plausible rival hypotheses that center on purely psychometric issues. As Table 3.2 indicates, these concern questions about the scaling, reliability, representativeness, economy, and potential biases of constructed-response tests, relative to multiple-choice tests of the same length. The complexity and subjectivity of scoring elaborate constructed responses may make such designs particularly susceptible to subtle forms of unreliability and bias. Although multiple-choice format may be susceptible to other sources of invalidity, such as cheating and test-wiseness, it at least allows more direct, objective assessment of reliability and bias. These and other psychometric issues are treated in more detail elsewhere in this volume.A closing rival hypothesis is suggested by the concerns about bias, however. Constructed-response format may serve to increase the correlation of scores with student background variables reflecting socioeconomic and educational privileges, as it was hypothesized earlier to do when student ability and achievement motivation are the background variables. Regardless of actual biases in measurement, this result would promote the perception of social bias in the tests. It would also accentuate the educational problem to be faced, of course.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
A brief list of conclusions can serve as summary:
1. The immediate task before us is to generate and test plausible rival hypotheses about the multiple-choice versus constructed-response contrast (but also the contrasts among other levels in Table 3.1) with respect to construct interpretation.

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