Equity in education and Differential Item Functioning
Equity in education and DIF analyses go hand in hand. But should they? Sure, an item can function differently for one group or another because of choice of wording, translation, or topic (what we call poor test construction) but there are more important reasons. What if one group is truly disadvantaged in learning a particular skill or concept because of the way it is being taught? Their performance on items relating to that skill would suffer, leading to DIF in the classical analyses and subsequent discarding of these DIF items. How is such practice instrumental in taking away the disadvantage? It isn’t of course – it would sweep the problem under the carpet.
If we let DIF stand for “Don’t Induce Failure”, DIF would be a good thing, and we all have been barking up the wrong tree for decades. What’s needed is that we “DIF” and aim to adapt education such that all learners, irrespective of their background, receive the education that best fits their needs. As psychometricians, we at Metior develop(ed) the methodology to map out where the DIFferences are, such that teachers and learning scientists can see where interventions are needed and monitor what works and what doesn’t. This way we could, with time, realize equity in education
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