Jump-Starting Item Parameters for Adaptive Language Tests

Arya D. McCarthy, Kevin P. Yancey, Geoffrey T. LaFlair, Jesse Egbert, Manqian Liao, Burr Settles

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

A challenge in designing high-stakes language assessments is calibrating the test item difficulties, either a priori or from limited pilot test data. While prior work has addressed 'cold start' estimation of item difficulties without piloting, we devise a multi-task generalized linear model with BERT features to jump-start these estimates, rapidly improving their quality with as few as 500 test-takers and a small sample of item exposures (≈6 each) from a large item bank (≈4,000 items). Our joint model provides a principled way to compare test-taker proficiency, item difficulty, and language proficiency frameworks like the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). This also enables new item difficulty estimates without piloting them first, which in turn limits item exposure and thus enhances test security. Finally, using operational data from the Duolingo English Test, a high-stakes English proficiency test, we find that difficulty estimates derived using this method correlate strongly with lexico-grammatical features that correlate with reading complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEMNLP 2021 - 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings
PublisherAssociation for Computational Linguistics (ACL)
Pages883-899
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781955917094
StatePublished - 2021
Event2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2021 - Virtual, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Duration: Nov 7 2021Nov 11 2021

Publication series

NameEMNLP 2021 - 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, Proceedings

Conference

Conference2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, EMNLP 2021
Country/TerritoryDominican Republic
CityVirtual, Punta Cana
Period11/7/2111/11/21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems

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