DISTINGUISHING CONTINUOUS AND DISCRETE APPROACHES TO MULTILEVEL MIXTURE IRT MODELS: A MODEL COMPARISON PERSPECTIVE
Lissitz, Robert W.
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The current study introduced a general modeling framework, multilevel mixture IRT (MMIRT) which detects and describes characteristics of population heterogeneity, while accommodating the hierarchical data structure. In addition to introducing both continuous and discrete approaches to MMIRT, the main focus of the current study was to distinguish continuous and discrete MMIRT models from a model comparison perspective. A simulation study was conducted to evaluate the impact of class separation, cluster size, proportion of mixture, and between-group ability variance on the model performance of a set of MMIRT models. The behavior of information-based fit criteria in distinguishing between discrete and continuous MMIRT models was also investigated. An empirical analysis was presented to illustrate the application of MMIRT models. Results suggested that class separation, and between-group ability variance had significant impact on MMIRT model performance. Discrete MMIRT models with fewer group-level latent classes performed consistently better on parameter and classification recovery than the continuous MMIRT model and the discrete models with more latent classes at the group level. Despite the poor performance of the continuous MMIRT model, it was favored over the discrete models by most fit indices. The AIC, AIC3, AICC, and the modification of AIC and ssBIC were more sensitive to the discreteness in random effect distribution, compared to the CAIC, BIC, their modifications, and ssBIC. The latter ones had a higher tendency to select continuous MMIRT model as the best fitting model, regardless of the true distribution of random effects.