Report on participation in the 9th Convention of JART (Japan Association for Research on Testing) in Okayama

This is a report on our participation in the 9th Convention of JART held at Benesse Corporation Headquarters and at Okayama University.

 The theme of the Convention was "Testing in Education – Today and the Future." Two open symposia were held with the topics of "Dynamic Testing Technology to Watch over Children" and "Global Perspectives of Educational Testing Today and in the Future." In the latter symposium, discussions took place on the status quo and the future perspectives of testing in the world. The presentations in this symposium included the current and future directions of large-scale international assessments, such as PISA and PIAAC, by Dr. Kentaro Yamamoto from the Educational Testing Service, the college scholastic ability test presented by Dr. Lee Yong Baek from the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, and use of tests in higher education in Japan by Professor Tatsuo Kawashima from Kobe University.

 The overview of the presentations made during the Convention is that the content was centered on the status quo and the outlook of the development and administration of large scale educational testing. In addition to the two open symposia, a session on “certification” in various areas such as English, statistics, and psychology was also held. Item writing, evaluation methods, and challenges/issues in the area of certification tests were discussed. Most of these large-scale educational assessments in and outside of Japan are designed and developed based on item response theory (IRT). IRT application seems to be expanding rapidly.

 Other topics covered in the presentations were theoretical and practical research on test equating, research on the development of computer-based testing based on latent rank theory, research on the development and analysis of IRT-based tests in the areas of nursing and dentistry, theoretical research on the influence of local dependence between item responses, and research on item analysis.

 The growing interest in test equating, we believe, is driven by the usage of IRT in the aforementioned large-scale testing. On the one hand, classical test theory does not allow us to make a simple comparison of scores between different tests, because of the confounding level of difficulty of test items and the test takers' abilities. On the other hand, IRT-based tests make it possible to mutually compare the scores among the test takers, because the test score is expressed on the same scale regardless of the test version. However, equating becomes necessary even for IRT-based tests that are to be administered continuously. Equating is subject to various constraints depending on the scale and implementation style, and therefore, selection of an appropriate design and method suitable for each situation is required. Theory and techniques of test equating must be further advanced with its increased importance in the future.

 Another issue to be considered is how to relate test scores with "what can be done in concrete terms," as IRT-based tests express test scores on the common scale. If we can accurately make such correspondence between the two factors, the value of educational testing will be furthered, in addition to the verification of the test validity. In the future, research concerning Can-do based on objective assessment criteria is expected to grow.

 The 9th Convention of JART was attended by a larger number of people than in the past. Next year's convention is scheduled to be held from August 21 to 22, 2012 at Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU).

(Yiping Zhang, Ph. D., CRET Researcher and Kentaro Kato, Ph.D., CRET Researcher)

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