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Beyond Multiple Choice: Using Automated Analysis to Evaluate Student Writing About Biology

TitleBeyond Multiple Choice: Using Automated Analysis to Evaluate Student Writing About Biology
Publication TypePoster
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHaudek, KC, Moscarella, RA, Urban-Lurain, M, Merrill, JE
Date Published10/2010
Type of WorkPoster session
KeywordsAACR, Biology, chemistry, Computer scoring, constructed response, Lexical analysis
Non-MSUMSU STEM Education Day
Location of meetingMichigan State University
Citation Key2853
Full Text

Constructed-response assessments, in which students write their own answers, can provide greater insight into student thinking, but are challenging to use in large-enrollment courses due to resource constraints. We are investigating the use of lexical analysis software as a means to provide instructors timely formative feedback from constructed-response items. In this project, we examine student explanations of basic chemistry concepts in an introductory biology course. Lexical analysis has revealed common problems in students’ explanations, even when those students are able to make a correct multiple choice selection. By using a combination of lexical analysis and statistical classification, we achieve computer-to-expert interrater reliability (IRR) that approaches expert-to-expert IRR. Such automated techniques may help overcome the barriers to use of constructed-response items in a wide range of large enrollment.


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation (DUE grants: 1438739, 1323162, 1347740, 0736952 and 1022653). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.