Comparison of Machine Learning Performance Using Analytic and Holistic Coding Approaches Across Constructed Response Assessments Aligned to a Science Learning Progression


We systematically compared two coding approaches to generate training datasets for machine learning (ML): (i) a holistic approach based on learning progression levels and (ii) a dichotomous, analytic approach of multiple concepts in student reasoning, deconstructed from holistic rubrics. We evaluated four constructed response assessment items for undergraduate physiology, each targeting five levels of a developing flux learning progression in an ion context. Human-coded datasets were used to train two ML models: (i) an 8-classification algorithm ensemble implemented in the Constructed Response Classifier (CRC), and (ii) a single classification algorithm implemented in LightSide Researcher\textquoterights Workbench. Human coding agreement on approximately 700 student responses per item was high for both approaches with Cohen\textquoterights kappas ranging from 0.75 to 0.87 on holistic scoring and from 0.78 to 0.89 on analytic composite scoring. ML model performance varied across items and rubric type. For two items, training sets from both coding approaches produced similarly accurate ML models, with differences in Cohen\textquoterights kappa between machine and human scores of 0.002 and 0.041. For the other items, ML models trained with analytic coded responses and used for a composite score, achieved better performance as compared to using holistic scores for training, with increases in Cohen\textquoterights kappa of 0.043 and 0.117. These items used a more complex scenario involving movement of two ions. It may be that analytic coding is beneficial to unpacking this additional complexity.


Lauren Jescovitch, Emily Scott, Jack Cerchiara, John Merrill, Mark Urban-Lurain, Jennifer Doherty, Kevin Haudek

Year of Publication



Journal of Science Education and Technology

Date Published