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Column One: Research

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Researchers at the Educational Testing Service have developed a method of testing that allows test takers to construct their own responses while permitting the answers to be scored by computer.

Figural-response items, in which students draw graphs or diagrams in response to questions, also measure knowledge that is difficult to express verbally or numerically, the researchers note.

"By using figural-response items, people who think visually could find it easier to express their knowledge,'' said Michael E. Martinez, the director of the project at the E.T.S. "Many topics in science and technology are best represented by using pictorial depictions.''

The method was first tested for the 1990 National Assessment of Educational Progress. In that test, the researchers found that such items were harder and more predictive of overall ability than comparable multiple-choice items.

Currently, the researchers are studying such issues as the psychometric properties of the items, how the format influences student thinking, and ways in which such test items could be used for diagnostic purposes.

Visitors to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington can explore some of the findings and principles of psychological research, thanks to a new exhibition sponsored by the American Psychological Association.

The hands-on exhibition includes more than 30 exhibits and activities, including sections on thinking, problem-solving, and child development. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Smithsonian will also sponsor films, lectures, and other programs highlighting topics in the field.

"Psychology: Understanding Ourselves, Understanding Each Other'' will run at the Smithsonian's Experimental Gallery until Labor Day. It will then travel to science museums in nine cities throughout the United States.

For the first time, data from National Center for Education Statistics studies are available on CD-ROM.

The disks include data from the High School and Beyond longitudinal study and the Postsecondary Student Aid Studies of 1986-87 and 1989-90.

They are available for $23 per disk from New Orders, Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15250-7954. The stock number for the High School and Beyond study is 065-000-00470-4; for the 1986-87 student-aid study, 065-000-00471-2; and for the 1989-90 aid study, 065-000-00472-1.--R.R.

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