When Should We Use Testlet Model? A Comparison Study of Bayesian Testlet Random-Effects Model and Standard 2-PL Bayesian Model
2012, 44 (2):
A testlet is comprised of a group of multiple choice items based on a common stimuli. When a testlet is used, the traditional item response models may not be appropriate due to the violation of the assumption of local independence (LI). A variety of new models have been proposed to analyze response data sets for testlets. Among them, the Bayesian random effects model proposed by Bradlow, Wainer and Wang (1999) is one of the most promising. However, in many situations it is not clear to practitioners whether the traditional IRT methods should still be used instead of a newly proposed testlet model.
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The objective of the current study is to investigate the effects of model selection in various situations. In simulation 1, simulated response data sets were generated under three simulation factors, which were: testlet variance (0, 0.5, 1, 2); testlet size (2, 5, 10); and test length (20, 40, 60). For each simulation condition, the test structure was determined by fixing the number of examinees as I =2000, and the percentage of testlet items in a test as 50%. Under each condition, 30 replications were generated. Both two-parameter Bayesian testlet random effect model and standard two-parameter Bayesian model were fitted to every dataset using MCMC method. The computer program SCORIGHT was used to conduct all the analysis across different conditions.
Two models were compared corresponding to seven criteria: bias, mean absolute error, root mean square error, correlation between estimated and true values, 95% posterior interval width, 95% coverage probability. These indexes were computed for all parameters separately.
Simulation 2 compared the two models under two factors: the proportion of independent items (1/3, 1/2, 2/3); test length (20, 30, 40, 60). The data generation, analyze process and criteria mimicked those of simulation 1.
The results showed that: (1) The accuracy of the estimation of all parameters under 2-PL Bayesian testlet random-effect model remained stable with varying levels of testlet effect and testlet size. However, the estimate errors of all the parameters under 2-PL Bayesian model increased dramatically as the testlet effect and testlet size became larger. Besides, using Bayesian testlet random-effect model, the error for every parameter was always less than that for 2-PL Bayesian model. It was especially necessary to choose 2-PL Bayesian testlet random-effects model when testlet variance and testlet size were large. (2) Even though, the accuracy of estimation of item parameters in Bayesian testlet random-effect model wasn’t affected by test length, the accuracy of ability parameter was. Moreover, as the test got shorter, the errors of all parameters under 2-PL Bayesian model increased dramatically. In all, under short test conditions, even if there was large testlet effect, Bayesian testlet random-effect model couldn’t work well, meanwhile, if items were all independent, using Bayesian testlet random-effect model would result in much worse ability estimations than 2-PL Bayesian model. (3) When the proportion of independent items was large, and the test length was larger than 20 items, the estimations of two models didn’t show significant differences.
In conclusion, 2-PL Bayesian testlet random-effect model is more general. Using the more complex testlet model when items are all independent, will lead almost the same accuracy of the parameter estimations as using the 2-PL Bayesian model. It is better to choose 2-PL Bayesian testlet random-effect model when testlet variance, testlet size, and test length are large. However, when test length is short, even the Bayesian testlet random- effects model couldn’t provide accurate estimations of parameters when local dependence happened. So it is important to make sure the test was comprised of enough items before applying a testlet model. We also give some suggestions for practitioners. In the test construction period, first it is better for items to be independent, if not, shorter testlets and larger proportion of independent items should be included. While in the test analysis period, local dependence should be detected first. If evidence shows that there is dependence structure, then an appropriate model should be chosen to avoid estimation errors.