The Development and Application of Computer-Adaptive Testing in a Higher Education Environment
The research reported in this thesis investigated issues relating to the use of computer-assisted assessment in Higher Education through the design, implementation and evaluation of a computer-adaptive test (CAT) for the assessment of and provision of feedback to Computer Science undergraduates. The CAT developed for this research unobtrusively monitors the performance of students during a test, and then employs this information to adapt the sequence and level of difficulty of the questions to individual students. The information about each student performance obtained through the CAT is subsequently employed for the automated generation of feedback that is tailored to each individual student. In the first phase of the research, a total of twelve empirical studies were carried out in order to investigate issues related to the adaptive algorithm, stakeholders’ attitude, and validity and reliability of the approach. The CAT approach was found to be valid and reliable, and also effective at tailoring the level of difficulty of the test to the ability of individual students. The two main groups of stakeholders, students and academic staff, both exhibited a positive attitude towards the CAT approach and the user interface. The second phase of the research was concerned with the design, implementation and evaluation of an automated feedback prototype based on the CAT approach. Five empirical studies were conducted in order to assess stakeholders’ attitude towards the automated feedback, and its effectiveness at providing feedback on performance. It was found that both groups of stakeholders exhibited a positive attitude towards the feedback approach. Furthermore, it was found that the approach was effective at identifying the strengths and weaknesses of individual students, and at supporting the adaptive selection of learning resources that meet their educational needs. This work discusses the implications of the use of the CAT approach in Higher Education assessment. In addition, it demonstrates the ways in which the adaptive test generated by the CAT approach can be used to provide students with tailored feedback that is timely and useful.