SEEKING CULTURAL FAIRNESS IN A MEASURE OF RELATIONAL REASONING
Dumas, Denis George
Alexander, Patricia A
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Relational reasoning, or the ability to identify meaningful patterns within any stream of information, is a fundamental cognitive ability associated with academic success across a variety of domains of learning and levels of schooling. However, the measurement of this construct has been historically problematic. For example, while the construct is typically described as multidimensional—including the identification of multiple types of higher-order patterns—it is most often measured in terms of a single type of pattern: analogy. For that reason, the Test of Relational Reasoning (TORR) was conceived and developed to include three other types of patterns that appear to be meaningful in the educational context: anomaly, antinomy, and antithesis. Moreover, as a way to focus on fluid relational reasoning ability, the TORR was developed to include, except for the directions, entirely visuo-spatial stimuli, which were designed to be as novel as possible for the participant. By focusing on fluid intellectual processing, the TORR was also developed to be fairly administered to undergraduate students—regardless of the particular gender, language, and ethnic groups they belong to. However, although some psychometric investigations of the TORR have been conducted, its actual fairness across those demographic groups has yet to be empirically demonstrated. Therefore, a systematic investigation of differential-item-functioning (DIF) across demographic groups on TORR items was conducted. A large (N = 1,379) sample, representative of the University of Maryland on key demographic variables, was collected, and the resulting data was analyzed using a multi-group, multidimensional item-response theory model comparison procedure. Using this procedure, no significant DIF was found on any of the TORR items across any of the demographic groups of interest. This null finding is interpreted as evidence of the cultural-fairness of the TORR, and potential test-development choices that may have contributed to that cultural-fairness are discussed. For example, the choice to make the TORR an untimed measure, to use novel stimuli, and to avoid stereotype threat in test administration, may have contributed to its cultural-fairness. Future steps for psychometric research on the TORR, and substantive research utilizing the TORR, are also presented and discussed.