ERIC Number: ED401303
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1996-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Describing Complex Academic Tasks from Six Graduate Disciplines Using Multidimensional Scaling and Clustering.
Enright, Mary K.; Oltman, Philip K.
Multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis were used to describe and categorize tasks from six graduate disciplines including academic psychology, applied psychology, English literature, journalism, physics, and electrical engineering. A sample of task descriptions was constructed through interviews with four or five graduate students from each of these disciplines. A rating instrument was designed to describe task goals and to evaluate whether tasks were well or ill structured with respect to various aspects of problem definition and problem solution. Graduate faculty (three to five per discipline) used the rating instrument to characterize a sample of tasks from their disciplines. The scales were found reasonably reliable and were useful in identifying and describing task cluster and how such clusters varied both within and across disciplines. A cluster of short-term problems that were posed by someone other than the student was found in every field, although the other characteristics of this cluster of tasks varied with discipline. In all disciplines except physics, a cluster of complex tasks emerged that was characterized as having multiple objectives that needed to be satisfied. The cluster of complex tasks found in physics was not described clearly by the scales. Problem-finding was an important task characteristic in the social sciences and humanities, but not in the physical sciences. The relevance of multidimensional scaling and clustering to test design is discussed. An appendix contains examples of task descriptions. (Contains 8 figures, 15 tables, and 18 references.) (Author/SLD)
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: Graduate Record Examinations Board, Princeton, NJ.
Authoring Institution: Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ.