Behavioral and fMRI evidence of the differing cognitive load of domain-specific assessments

Howard, S.J., Burianová, H., Ehrich, J., Kervin, L., Calleia, A., Barkus, Emma, Carmody, J. and Humphry, S. (2015) Behavioral and fMRI evidence of the differing cognitive load of domain-specific assessments. Neuroscience, 297. pp. 38-46. ISSN 0306-4522

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Standards-referenced educational reform has increased the prevalence of standardized testing; however, whether these tests accurately measure students’ competencies has been questioned. This may be due to domain-specific assessments placing a differing domain-general cognitive load on test-takers. To investigate this possibility, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to identify and quantify the neural correlates of performance on current, international standardized methods of spelling assessment. Out-of-scanner testing was used to further examine differences in assessment results. Results provide converging evidence that: (a) the spelling assessments differed in the cognitive load placed on test-takers; (b) performance decreased with increasing cognitive load of the assessment; and (c) brain regions associated with working memory were more highly activated during performance of assessments that were higher in cognitive load. These findings suggest that assessment design should optimize the cognitive load placed on test-takers, to ensure students’ results are an accurate reflection of their true levels of competency.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: cognitive load, standardized testing, assessment, spelling, fMRI, educational neuroscience
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2020 15:27
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 11:50

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