Impact of working memory burden and contextualization on cognitive complexity
Morrison, Kristin M.
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Contextualization is often added to mathematical achievement items to place targeted mathematical operations in a real world context or in combinations with other mathematical skills. Such items may have unintended sources of difficulty, such as greater cognitive complexity than specified in the test blueprint. These types of items are being introduced to achievement exams through assessment programs such as SBAC and PARCC. Cognitive models have been created to assess sources of cognitive complexity in mathematics items, including a global model (Embretson&Daniel, 2008) and an adapted model (Lutz, Embretson,&Poggio, 2010). The current study proposes a new cognitive model structured around sources of working memory burden with an emphasis on contextualization. Full-information item response (IRT) models were applied to a state accountability test of mathematics achievement in middle school to examine impact on psychometric properties related to burden on working memory.