What is Item Response Theory

TRI is a correction methodology that considers three characteristics of the questions (which are the items) – the ability to show whether students have the necessary knowledge to answer them, the degree of difficulty and the possibility of them getting it right by chance.

Considering these aspects, the correction looks at the students’ answer pattern to determine their level of proficiency. This is because Item Response Theory assumes that the greater the mastery of a subject, the greater the probability of getting the items right.

Therefore, in addition to getting the questions right, it is necessary to have consistency in getting the right answers according to the level of difficulty of each question. When the student gets a reasonable amount of items considered easy or medium correct and misses many of the difficult ones, for example, it is likely that he or she has really mastered the subjects covered at the lower levels.

However, if the student gets more medium and difficult questions right than easy ones, there is a good chance that he has “guessed” the answers. So students who fall into the first case get higher scores than those who fall into the second case, even if the number of correct answers is higher.

In other words, the number of right answers is not prioritized in the grade assignment. It is possible for a student to get more questions right than another and get a lower score if the right answers are not consistent according to the Item Response Theory.

What are its main differences in relation to SCT?

Unlike Item Response Theory, Classical Test Theory is based on the sum of the number of correct answers, to which weights can be assigned to differentiate the value of each one.

Thus, the SCT looks at the set of questions, assuming that getting a higher number of correct answers indicates that students have more mastery over the topics being assessed. It is a simple method that can be easily applied.

In TRI, on the other hand, the correct answers do not have the same value for everyone, and the questions answered by a higher number of students are worth more. Regarding its application, it is a more difficult method to apply because it implies a more complex correction.

For example, if a student who does not demonstrate mastery of the easy level correctly answers difficult questions, they are not zeroed out, but are worth less than in the case of a student who got the same items right and several others classified in the lower levels.

How does it help in assessing skills?

Since the aspects evaluated by Item Response Theory are not limited to correct and incorrect answers, it is possible to make a more complete diagnosis of the students’ skills.

In tests that follow this model, students’ analysis and reflection skills are prioritized, making memorization of content less important.

In addition, it is possible to make a comparative analysis of the performance of all students in the school to define strategies to improve the quality of education in the areas where they do not obtain the expected results.

What are its main benefits?

To understand how it helps students, here are some of the main benefits of Item Response Theory.

Enables the preparation of different tests

Among the advantages of TRI, we can highlight the possibility of creating different tests with the same level of difficulty. This is extremely positive for schools that promote the personalization of teaching or intend to do so.

In this context, it is possible to adapt school tests to this teaching approach. In this way, teachers are able to assess students with respect for their learning styles and pace of development.

It allows you to assess students accurately

In addition, TRI allows you to accurately determine whether students have really understood certain subjects by differentiating hits by chance. Thus, the scores reflect their actual abilities.

Consequently, it becomes easier to identify students’ specific difficulties and any gaps in their teaching. This allows teachers to adjust their teaching practices to make the teaching-learning process more effective, helping their students achieve the expected results.

Helps students prepare for ENEM

Another advantage is that it helps students prepare for ENEM. Solving questions that follow the same model as the exam allows them to become familiar with the format and better understand how they will be assessed.

Thus, students have a clear and comprehensive view of the skills and competencies required by the exam board, as well as an understanding of their own limitations and aptitudes.

This helps both to develop the necessary skills to do well in ENEM and to have more autonomy and precision to plan their studies, taking responsibility for their own learning.

In addition, students exercise logical thinking when solving problems, better assimilating the content. To this end, some schools, such as Eleva Educação, conduct interdisciplinary simulations with TRI correction for high school students.

As we have shown, Item Response Theory allows us to assess the students’ knowledge in a deeper way, identifying how well they have assimilated the content studied.

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