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Test Theory Reconceived IRT

Mislevy, Robert J.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Bayesian Statistics, Cognitive Psychology, Item Response Theory (IRT), Psychometrics, Test Theory


Educational test theory consists of statistical and methodological tools to support inference about examinees' knowledge, skills, and accomplishments. The evolution of test theory has been shaped by the nature of users' inferences, which until recently, have been framed almost exclusively in terms of trait and behavioral psychology. Progress in the methodology of test theory enabled users to extend the range of inference, sharpen the logic, and ground their interpretations more solidly within these psychological paradigms. In particular, the focus remained on students' overall tendency too perform in prespecified ways to prespecified domains of tasks; for example, to make correct answers to mixed-number subtraction problems. Developments in cognitive and developmental psychology broaden the range of desired inferences, especially to conjectures about the nature and acquisition o students' knowledge. Commensurately broader ranges of data-types and student models are entertained. The same underlying principles of inference that led to standard test theory can be applied to support inference in this broader universe of discourse. Familiar models and methods -- sometimes extended, sometimes reinterpreted, sometimes applied to problems wholly different from those for which they were first devised -- can play a useful role to this end. (60pp.)

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