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

CHAPTER
5
A FRAMEWORK FOR STUDYING DIFFERENCES BETWEEN MULTIPLE-CHOICE AND FREE-RESPONSE TEST ITEMS

Robert J. Mislevy
Educational Testing Service

Ever since Robert M. Yerkes tested a million World War I recruits with his Army Alpha Intelligence Test, multiple-choice items have dominated educational selection, placement, and assessment applications. Occasional criticism has marked their reign, from observers including no less than Banesh Hoffman, Ralph Nader, and (Educational Testing Service's own!) Norman Frederiksen. But the character of today's debates strikes at the very heart of the enterprise: The view of human ability that spawned multiple-choice tests no longer holds universal currency among psychologists and educators. The ascendant view originates from a perspective more attuned to instruction than to selection or prediction. Learners increase their competence not simply by accumulating new facts and skills at rates determined by relatively immutable "aptitudes," but by reconfiguring knowledge structures, by automating procedures and chunking information to reduce memory loads, and by developing strategies and models that tell them when and how facts and skills are relevant.

Tests can be described as mere tools to gather information in order to guide educational decisions. But an educational decision-making framework cannot be conceived except around a view of human ability, which suggests educational options, determines what information is relevant, and specifies how an implementation is to be evaluated. The pertinent questions about multiple-choice tests now are whether, when, and how these tools, developed and validated within the old paradigm, can serve useful roles within the new paradigm.

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