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Tuesday, July 2 • 1:30pm - 2:10pm
Autonomy analysis of the Mathematics Comprehension Test of Academic Potential

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This paper is a report on the structure of the Mathematics Comprehension Test of Academic Potential (MCOM) using Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) as a tool for analysis. This diagnostic test, whose purpose is to assess a test taker’s potential to learn new mathematical knowledge and skills, is taken as part of the orientation process for the Science Faculty students at the University of Cape Town. The results are used in conjunction with other tests (the National Benchmark Tests and the first faculty tests at 6 weeks) to inform on placement of students in either the main or the extended stream. The main feature of the MCOM is in the way the questions are constructed. Items focus on specific features of mathematical concepts that compel the student to apply prior knowledge to understand the context; as opposed to resorting to reproducing knowledge learnt by rote. This is a recurring feature in the faculty’s Mathematics curriculum in particular, and so the MCOM is designed to set the tone for the rest of the Mathematics programme in this manner. From the examiner’s perspective, it then becomes possible to assess from this test specific areas of a student’s understanding and ability to synthesise learning processes. This knowledge becomes valuable for both student and lecturer especially in the design and provision of additional support on the extended programmes. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to explore the structure, as well as the nature of the knowledge at play in the test, using the LCT concept of autonomy in particular. Autonomy is a concept that explores the relations between two sets of knowledge; their constituents as well as their purpose. I proceed by giving a brief background to the MCOM, highlighting the theory espoused by this assessment practice, its assessment criteria and the elements that constitute its achievement. I then explore the various ways the test may benefit from an analysis using autonomy by using two major research strategies: firstly a qualitative analysis of the structure of the test items, and secondly, a quantitative analysis of student response data. The analysis is an attempt at highlighting the tacit structural nuances underlying what is considered as the legitimate knowledge that defines the test; and the relationships that exist between this legitimate knowledge and the prior knowledge that is brought in by the student. The end goal is to see whether concepts from LCT can uncover additional layers of alignment between the test construct and its intended outcomes. It is hoped that such a study would contribute to the interpretation of test-taker performance in the test and to research in assessment for placement in Higher Education.


Tuesday July 2, 2019 1:30pm - 2:10pm
Room B46

Attendees (4)