Using Item Calibrations to Improve Teacher Education

Introductory science courses in Schools of Education stress a variety of teacher training topics. Two topic's central to most classes are the teaching implications of Piaget's theories and the art of questioning. Unfortunately undergraduates have difficulty understanding the classroom application of these topics. To help education majors at Indiana University better understand cognitive theories and questioning techniques, two item maps constructed with Rasch scaled test items are used.

These teacher training "item maps" (Figures 1 and 2) resemble Woodcock's KeyMath plots. The first item map uses five items from a 90 question 4th grade science test. All the items require objects to be ordered. This item map exposes undergraduates to real test items which real students had answered and provides an immediate picture of how test items involving types of "ordering" compare. The item map allows these future teachers to "see" that although "length" might be more easily comprehended than "volume", a "volume" ordering problem (#48) is not always more difficult for elementary students than a "length" ordering problem (#50 and #51).

Student teachers are also surprised that the bean plant item (#7) which requires appreciation of "growth" and "time" is not more difficult than the "volume" food jar item (#48).

Education courses for teachers expose them to lectures and readings reminding them to consider carefully how questions should be posed in a classroom. To help teachers think more deeply about question formulation, a second item map uses four other items from the science test.

Undergraduates are asked to explain the ordering and spacing of questions on this item map. They see items #22 and #23 are easier than items #85 and #87 because the number of options varies. Several have commented that although it might seem common sense, the map shows that teachers change the difficulties of their questions by the number of options they use.

The ease with which undergraduates use these two item maps shows that presenting calibrated items on a variable line can be a valuable tool for teachers in training. Students use the item ordering and spacing to think about the real life classroom application of a college text's educational theories.

Item:    #48   #7     #47                  #51             #50
Logit: -1.67 -1.62  -1.08                -.06              .82
          !!         !                    !                !
 --+----------+--------+----------+--------+---------+---------+--
  -2        -1.5      -1        -.5        0         .5        1
   Easy Items                                         Hard Items

Figure 1. Teacher Education Item Map #1.

Hardest Item

Item #50 (Difficulty .82 logits)
[Four pictures of different potted plants with leaves.]
Arrange plants in order from longest leaves to shortest leaves.

Item #51 (Difficulty -.06 logits)
[Four pictures of snails and their trails. The trails are symbolized
with a line of dots.]
What is the order of these snail trails if they are arranged from longest to shortest?

Item #47 (Difficulty -1.08 logits)
[Four pictures of glasses filled with water.]
These glasses are the same size. Order them from fullest to least full glass.

Item #7 (Difficulty -1.62 logits)
[Four pictures of a bean plant. Structure above and below ground is shown.]
Order the pictures according to the life cycle of a bean plant.

Item #48 (Difficulty -1.67 logits)
[Four jars of food.]
These food jars are the same size. Order them from greatest to least amount of food.

Easiest Item

 Item:   #22               #23     #85  #87
Logit: -1.90              -.79    -.42 -.16
     !                     !       !    !
 ---+----------+--------+---------+---------+---------+---------+-
   -2        -1.5      -1        -.5        0         .5        1
   Easy Items                                         Hard Items

Figure 2. Teacher Education Item Map #2

Hardest Item

Item 87 (Difficulty -.16)
Which is light and smooth: basketball? tennis ball? bowling ball? ping pong ball?

Item 85 (Difficulty -.42)
Which is wet and can be poured: water in a glass? ice cube? salt shaker? ice cream cone?

Item 23 (Difficulty -.79)
Which object is small, hard,, and sharp: window? penny? thumb tack? flower?

Item 22 (Difficulty -1.90)
What is cold, hard, and wet: milk? brick? soup? ice?

Easiest Item

Using item calibrations to improve teacher education. Boone WJ. … Rasch Measurement Transactions, 1992, 5:4 p.180


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