NSF Awards Grant to Measured Progress Innovation Lab to Advance Research on Technology-Enhanced Items

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TEIs can measure higher-level constructs, yield rich diagnostic information

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant to the Measured Progress Innovation Lab. The two-and-a-half year, $400,000 grant will support Innovation Lab research on the validity of inferences that can be made about student knowledge from technology-enhanced assessment items (TEIs).

TEIs are widely regarded as having the potential to provide improved measures of student knowledge compared to selected-response items, while still supporting automatic scoring. TEIs require students to produce, rather than select, a response. As a result, such items have the potential to measure higher-level constructs, capture rich diagnostic information, create a more engaging testing environment for students, and reduce the effects of guessing and test-taking skills.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career have proposed the development of next-generation assessment systems that use TEIs in formative and summative assessments. Those assessments will be based on the Common Core State Standards. In addition, some states are developing TEIs for inclusion in their large-scale assessments.

Despite widespread recognition of the potential value of TEIs, concern exists about the limited research base evaluating the validity of such items in various contexts within K-12 education. Through this grant, the Validity of Technology-Enhanced Assessment in Geometry (VTAG) project led by Innovation Lab researcher Dr. Jessica Masters will focus on two outcomes:

  •     Deliverable resources, including selected-response items and TEIs, that are shown to provide valid measurements of the standards, and that will be freely and publicly available to all interested parties, including the Smarter Balanced and PARCC consortia
  •     Contributions to the field of assessment based on research related to the potential of TEIs to provide improved assessment

For this project, the Innovation Lab is focusing on grades four and five geometry. Geometry is often the sole subject in which students are asked to construct proofs based on logic, higher-order thinking skills, scientific thinking, and rigor. As a result, geometry may well offer the only opportunity students have to experience this type of sophisticated thinking and reasoning, as they apply both to mathematics and other domains. The prerequisite knowledge required to attempt these tasks is initially developed in elementary classrooms.

Innovation Lab researchers and Measured Progress item writers will develop selected-response items and TEIs targeting the Common Core State Standards for geometry. The researchers will use external review, classroom administration, and cognitive labs to collect validity evidence based on test content, internal structure of the items, relationship to other variables, and student response processes.

“This project makes important contributions to the field,” said Measured Progress Senior Vice President Mike Russell. “Only with increased evidence of the validity of inferences made by TEIs can we ensure that these item types are used to effectively inform, guide, and improve the educational process,” said Dr. Russell, who co-founded the Innovation Lab.

Study findings will be widely disseminated for use by researchers, practitioners, policy makers, assessment companies and the Race to the Top consortia. Upon project completion all technical, research, and evaluation reports will be publicly available on the Measured Progress Website. Major findings will also be reported through articles in peer reviewed journals, conference presentations, and white papers.

The project will be launched in fall of 2013 and will be completed at the end of 2015.

The Innovation Lab, the non-profit research, development, and policy division of Measured Progress, is dedicated to improving education by developing innovative, evidence-based solutions that challenge conventional thinking about measuring student learning and empower all students to more effectively demonstrate their knowledge.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year 2012, its budget was $7.0 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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Patricia Ross
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