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Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey, PhD University of California, Berkeley

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Presentation on theme: "Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey, PhD University of California, Berkeley"— Presentation transcript:

1 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey, PhD University of California, Berkeley

2 The Amazonification of Knowledge  How does Amazon know what books you’ll enjoy reading?  Amazon has no theoretical framework to distinguish between hundreds of potential recommendations based on genre or style.  Analyzing the data from millions of sales with similar reading patterns Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

3 What percentage of the area of the square is covered by the circle? Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

4 How to Know Something Without Knowing Anything About It  Remember back to your 5th grade math, calculating the area of a square, circle and calculating a ratio.  If you know the right formula, it’s easy and a mathematician could even explain why it works. Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

5 How to Know Something Without Knowing Anything About It  But pretend for a moment you didn’t know the formulas, didn’t know how to calculate ratios.  Is there another way to solve the problem? Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

6 Simulate the Answer with Scratch  Draw a square 4” x 4”  Draw a circle 2” diameter w/different color  Have the computer draw random sprites  Count what colors they land on Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

7 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

8 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

9 What is IRT?  First and foremost, IRT (as with classical test theory) is about assessment, not instruction.  Adaptive testing - some questions are rated easier or harder than others, so the test has a better ability to differentiate student ability than a generic test.  Most developed statistical model for interactively measuring item difficulty and student ability. Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013

10 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Item - Response - Theory  Item – questions on a survey, math problems, multiple choice questions on SAT  Response – easily quantifiable, usually right/wrong, can have partial credit.  Theory – hypothesizing a construct (e.g. intelligence, love of art, etc.) that can be measured.

11 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Understand by example - Are you a tech junkie?  Do you own a computer?  Do you own a smart phone?  Do you own two or more tablets?  Have you ever tried Google glasses?

12 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Participants Items Have tried Google glasses Bill Gates grandma Average teenager Own a computer Own a smart phone Own 2+ tablets Luddite Tech junkie

13 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 What could IRT offer reading researchers?  Quantitative measure of word difficulty  Improved accuracy in determining student reading ability from assessments  Reliability measures (item and test level)

14 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 How do researchers estimate word difficulty?  Ehri (2005) Earliest and simplest  Beck, McKeown & Kucan (2002) Word Tiers  Hiebert, Stewart & Uzicanin (2010) Word Features and Word Recognition  Fountas & Pinnell – Guided Reading  MetaMetrics – Lexile Scoring System

15 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 What are the basics we know?  Shorter words easier than longer words  Fewer syllables are easier  Higher frequency words are easier  Highly imageable words are easier  A quantitative measure of word difficulty could be highly useful

16 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Testing the Idea  One school, two 1 st grade classes, (n=75)  Data from two years of DIBELS assessments Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) assessment  First 40 words of four different ORF assessments  Simple IRT analysis marking incorrectly read words as incorrect responses (no partial credit)

17 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Findings  Quantitative measures of word difficulty and student reading ability  Strong correlations (r between.54 and.72) for basics of word difficulty  Potential measure for text reliability  Identifies words that defy expectations  Provides potential model for analyzing the impact of context on word difficulty

18 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Findings – Word Difficulty TextWordLtrsDifficulty ORF 1B-36 waiting ORF 1A-6 outside ORF 1B-3 mind ORF 2A-21 spot ORF 2A-29 got ORF 1B-32 fish ORF 1B-1 I

19 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Findings – Strange Cases  “First we picked a spot far from the big waves” -- guess the word with the highest item difficulty score?  3 letters, fairly easy phonetically, but easily confused with for  ¼ of the hardest 20 words had 3-4 letters, one syllable and were phonetically regular  Yellow, castle, anymore, all easier than traits would indicate

20 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Findings – Context Effect  A six letter, two syllable word with an unusual spelling pattern is missed by only 2 students, difficulty score  “We built a giant sand castle at the beach.”  Built scored 2.85 difficult and giant was one of the top 5 hardest words at 3.34  Fish tank and rocky road, no such luck

21 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Findings – Context Possibilities  Compare instances of reading same words in different contexts (starting a sentence, in subordinate clause, etc.)  Compare instances of words with suffixes (lick, licks, licked, licking)  Compare the effects of background knowledge on word difficulty scores

22 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Findings – Text Reliability  Use of Chronbach’s alpha to measure reliability of a given text for assessing student reading ability  Each of the four passages scored.97 or higher  Few words across the four passages had poor fit

23 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Conclusions  IRT provides researchers with a quantitative method for assessing word difficulty that can be used in a wide variety of research designs.  IRT offers useful information for text designers attempting to design and redesign increasingly complicated texts that comply with common core standards.  IRT offers a window into the brave new world of big data, suggesting new ideas about literacy development we don't necessarily understand but would be wise to consider.

24 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 Leveled Texts

25 Perspectives on Word Difficulty Using Item Response Theory Rick Chan Frey - LRA 2013 For a copy of the presentation or questions contact: Rick Chan Frey, PhD


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