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Identifying latent classes and differential item functioning in a cohort of e-learning students August 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anita DeCianni-Brown @ 1:55 pm

Sandford, Lajbcygier and Spratt describe a blended learning environment that:

  • Integrated a combination of traditional with web-based approaches
  • Combined media and tools employed in an e-learning environment
  • Combined a number of pedagogic approaches (irrespective of learning technology)

This chapter seemed to most reflect a K-12 learning environment with me. In the analysis of the grading specific evaluation is given to particular questions.  Questions reflected particular learning objectives.  Students needed to have previous knowledge of a information, formula, and be able to apply that to solving the problem.  For example, one question tested a student’s knowledge of binominal option pricing model.  In order for a student to answer it correctly, they needed to know the difference between European and American call and put options, be able to read an Excel spreadsheet set up of binominal model, understand how to construct the terminal prices of the underlying equity asset and apply the correct payoff equation for the specific option.  (p. 203)  Obviously, this goes further than just being able to apply an equation and come up with an answer.  They need to be able to pool from their knowledge of other factors and use that to determine what is needed in order to come up with the correct answer.

Having identified a potential source of DIF allows consideration of corrective responses to existing teaching and assessment.  Just identifying the possibility of a priori knowledge bias makes one more cognizant of avoiding such bias when developing new examination items.  (p. 206)  The reliance on one’s prior knowledge to answer things correctly seems to be an area that can affect learning for international students.  With this in mind, regarding strategies for assessment:

  • It is important that assessment be restricted to the content covered within any one unit.
  • Allow students the option to select items in an assessment.  Optional items could be included that allow students to exercise their own discretion as to the assessment task, and to identify that best suit their educational backgrounds and strengths.

In their conclusion, they state that through the identification of items and students for which biases are more frequent, teaching can be better informed and corrective actions, where necessary, can be effectively directed.  This is also true for students with learning disabilities.  Being able to include other forms of instruction other than lecture or writing on the board, but rather including hands-on learning or other visual aids, can help with the learning process.


Lajbcygier, P., Sanford, A., and Spratt, C. (2009). Identifying latent classes and differential item functioning in a cohort of e-learning students. In Lajbcygier, P., & Spratt C., E-learning technologies and evidence-based assessment approaches. Hershey: Information Science Reference


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