What are they doing? Using eye-tracking technology to better understand students’ test-taking behavior.

What are they doing? Using eye-tracking technology to better understand students’ test-taking behavior.

First Author: Scott Ardoin -- University of Georgia
Keywords: Reading comprehension, Eye movements, Reading Assessment, Working memory, Reading Motivation
Abstract / Summary: 

PURPOSE: Schools and researchers rely on scores of standardized measures of reading comprehension (RC). Outcomes from these assessments are used to determine student placements, evaluate instructional practices, and better understand the processes that underlie effective RC. Despite reliance on these measures, little is known regarding what students do when taking RC tests. METHOD: This project used eye-tracking technology to examine 3rd, 5th, and 8th graders’ reading and test-taking behavior. While having their eye movements recorded, 251 students read 3 expository and 3 narrative passages that varied in length. Eye movements were also recorded while students responded to literal and inferential multiple-choice questions. In additional to analyzing traditional eye-movement variables, students’ test-taking strategies were coded as well as their precision in returning to texts to find supporting information. Measures of working memory, reading motivation, and reading achievement were also collected. RESULTS: There were developmental changes in the strategies that readers used, with 8th graders more likely to read questions before reading the text relative to 3rd and 5th graders, while younger readers were more likely to first read text. Additionally, we found differences in response accuracy and test-taking strategies as a function of achievement, and working memory skills were implicated in how well students were able to locate information while answering questions. CONCLUSIONS: Eye-tracking technology is a powerful tool to understand the processes and strategies students use when taking RC tests. Findings lend valuable information to the development of future RC tests and the test taking strategies taught to students.