An Investigation of Explanation Multiple-Choice Items in Science Assessment

Liu, O. L., Lee, H.S. & Linn, M.C. (2011a). An investigation of explanation multiple-choice items in science assessment. Educational Assessment, 16, 164-184.


Both multiple-choice and constructed-response items have known advantages and disadvantages in measuring scientific inquiry. In this article we explore the function of explanation multiple-choice (EMC) items and examine how EMC items differ from traditional multiple-choice and constructed-response items in measuring scientific reasoning. A group of 794 middle school students was randomly assigned to answer either constructed-response or EMC items following regular multiple-choice items. By applying a Rasch partial-credit analysis, we found that there is a consistent alignment between the EMC and multiple-choice items. Also, the EMC items are easier than the constructed-response items but are harder than most of the multiple-choice items. We discuss the potential value of the EMC items as a learning and diagnostic tool.