[Edu-sig] Python Programming: Procedural Online Test

damon bryant damonbryant at msn.com
Mon Dec 5 10:50:05 CET 2005

One of the main reasons I decided to use an Item Response Theory (IRT) 
framework was that the testing platform, once fully operational, will not 
give students questions that are either too easy or too difficult for them, 
thus reducing anxiety and boredom for low and high ability students, 
respectively. In other words, high ability students will be challenged with 
more difficult questions and low ability students will receive questions 
that are challenging but matched to their ability. Each score is on the same 
scale, although some students will not receive the same questions. This is 
the beautiful thing! That is the concept of adaptive or tailored testing 
being implemented in the Python Programming: Procedural Online Test 

After reading the comment on 50% percent being optimal for measurement 
theory, I have to say about 90 years ago that was the best practice in order 
to maximize item/test variance, which maximized the distribution of scores. 
This is primarily a World War I and II convention in developing selection 
tests, i.e., Alpha and Beta, used to place conscripts in appropriate combat 
roles. Those two tests are the predecessors of the SAT administered by the 
Educational Testing Service, which is the organization where most of the war 
psychologists who developed Alpha and Beta went after the WW II. Because of 
their influence in selecting recruits who then received money after the war 
to go to college in the form of the GI Bill, these measurement specialists 
(psychometricians) did the same thing for ETS with the SAT in screening the 
same cohort for placement in colleges and universities around America. These 
psychologists had a strong influence of what constituted good practice in 
standardized testing. Accordingly, the practice of using 50% became well 

Later, IRT came on the scene in the early 1950s as an alternative to 
classical test theory and has some great theoretical and practical 
advantages over the previous approach of selecting items that have a 
variance of .50. The computing technology was not available then to 
implement the theory. However, it wasn't until the advent of the PC in the 
late 70s and early 80s that got psychometricians like me motivated to begin 
the implementation of IRT; once again at the forefront in the development 
was the armed services in the late 70s. It will take another decade or so to 
break the hold that Classical Test Theory has on measurement, and expect 
students' test anxiety to remain high in the interim. But as more and more 
begin to realize the benefits of IRT, especially computer adaptive testing, 
over CTT, it will no longer be an issue of was guidance should be used to 
administer and score tests.

>From: Chuck Allison <chuck at freshsources.com>
>Reply-To: Chuck Allison <chuck at freshsources.com>
>To: Laura Creighton <lac at strakt.com>
>CC: edu-sig at python.org, Scott David Daniels <Scott.Daniels at Acm.Org>
>Subject: Re: [Edu-sig] Python Programming: Procedural Online Test
>Date: Mon, 5 Dec 2005 00:52:50 -0700
>Hello Laura,
>That's better than the Abstract Algebra class I took as an
>undergraduate. The highest score on Test 1 was 19%. I got 6%! I retook
>the class from another teacher and topped the class. Liked the subject
>so much I took the second semester just for fun. Testing and teaching
>strategies make a tremendous difference.
>Sunday, December 4, 2005, 11:50:22 PM, you wrote:
>LC> In a message of Sun, 04 Dec 2005 11:32:27 PST, Scott David Daniels 
> >>I wrote:
> >> >> ... keeping people at 80% correct is great rule-of-thumb goal ...
> >>
> >>To elaborate on the statement above a bit, we did drill-and practice
> >>teaching (and had students loving it).  The value of the 80% is for
> >>maximal learning.  Something like 50% is the best for measurement theory
> >>(but discourages the student drastically).  In graduate school I had
> >>one instructor who tried to target his tests to get 50% as the average
> >>mark.  It was incredibly discouraging for most of the students (I
> >>eventually came to be OK with it, but it took half the course).
>LC> <snip>
>LC> 'Discouraging' misses the mark.  The University of Toronto has 
>LC> who like to test to 50% as well.  And it causes suicides among 
>LC> who are first exposed to this, unless there is adequate preparation.  
>LC> is incredibly _dangerous_ stuff.
>LC> Laura
> >>--Scott David Daniels
> >>Scott.Daniels at Acm.Org
> >>
> >>_______________________________________________
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>LC> _______________________________________________
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>Best regards,
>  Chuck
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