## Friday, September 14, 2012

### Playing around with IRT Graphs

# It is often useful to plot item response theory (IRT) graphs

# I will use the three parameter IRT model:

# ie. P(X=1) = c + (1-c)*(exp(a*(theta-b))/(1+(exp(a*(theta-b)))

# Let's first declare it as a function

irt = function(theta,a,b,c) c + (1-c)*(exp(a*(theta-b))/(1+(exp(a*(theta-b)))))

# Thus we can calculate the probability that a person with a theta = 1 will get a problem right that has parameters a=.3,b=2,c=.2.

irt(theta=1,a=.3,b=2,c=.2)

# R is convient in that functions can take either vectors or scalars.  Thus if irt is given a scalar and a vector it will reuse the scalar multiple times to be of length equal to the vector.

# So to map out an ability range that we are interested in, let's first define a vector for the relevant range of theta.
theta_map = seq(-4,4,.1)

# Let's see how the IRT function will return a probability response vector of length equal to theta:
irt(theta=theta_map,a=.3,b=2,c=.2)

# Let's see it plotted:
plot(theta_map,irt(theta=theta_map,a=.3,b=2,c=.2), type="l", ylim=c(0,1))

# This would probably not be a very useful item becuase there is not much variation in response probability based on ability level of respondents.

##########################    VARYING a      ############################
# Let's map a few competing items. First let's start with an empty plot:
plot(theta_map, 0*theta_map, type="n", ylim=c(0,1),
xaxs = "i", yaxs = "i",
ylab = "Probability of Correct Response",
xlab = ~ theta,
main="The Effect of Varying a")

# In many IRT models the a parameter is the "discrimination parameter"
# Let's see what happens when we vary it.
for (i in seq(0,2,.1)) {
lines(theta_map,irt(theta=theta_map,a=i,b=2,c=.2), type="l", ylim=c(0,1))
}

# We can see that varying a from 0 to 2 leads the item to have more ability to "discriminate" between respondents with ability less than b and those with ability more than b.

# The lowest a can go and still make sense is 0 while there is no upper limit.  As a approaches infinity, the function becomes a step function at the point b.
##########################    VARYING b      ############################
plot(theta_map, 0*theta_map, type="n", ylim=c(0,1),
xaxs = "i", yaxs = "i",
ylab = "Probability of Correct Response",
xlab = ~ theta,
main="The Effect of Varying b")

# In many IRT models the b parameter is the "difficulty parameter"
# Any student with ability above that parameter should find the chance of answering it greater than  c+(1-c)/2 = (1+c)/2.  That is the probability of guessing at the right answer plus half the remaining probability needed to be spanned.
for (i in seq(-3,3,.3)) {
lines(theta_map,irt(theta=theta_map,a=1,b=i,c=.2), type="l", ylim=c(0,1))
}

# By varying b we map out the ranges of abilities that students posses.  Thus varying difficulty of problems allows us to guess at were on the theta spectrum any student may lie.

##########################    VARYING c      ############################
plot(theta_map, 0*theta_map, type="n", ylim=c(0,1),
xaxs = "i", yaxs = "i",
ylab = "Probability of Correct Response",
xlab = ~ theta,
main="The Effect of Varying c")

# In many IRT models the b parameter is the "difficulty parameter"
# Any student with ability above that parameter should find the chance of answering it greater than  c+(1-c)/2 = (1+c)/2.  That is the probability of guessing at the right answer plus half the remaining probability needed to be spanned.
for (i in seq(0,1,.05)) {
lines(theta_map,irt(theta=theta_map,a=1,b=0,c=i), type="l", ylim=c(0,1))
}

# As c gets large the probability span of the IRT function goes from 1 to 0.  This means that the difference in probabily as a result of ability is decreasing as the guessing parameter gets large.  Thus, a test item that has a high guessing parameter in general has less ability to discriminate between low ability respondents and high ability respondents.  Thus, true or false questions may be uniformative indicators of student ability in many cases.

##########################    Overview      ############################

# What do these graphs tell us about the ideal parameter set of our items?

# In general higher a is better so as to help us discriminate between ability levels.

# There is no obvious ideal level of b.  If we have a specific ability level that we would like to make sure all of our students reach then having all of our items share a similar b might be ideal.  However, if on the other hand we would like to be able to asses the overall ability of students then having items with bs that vary along our entire range of interest might be preferable.

# As for the guessing parameter, I am pretty sure we always want that to be smaller.  That is, if it is harder for students to guess the right answer then when students get the right answer, we have more confidence that that reflects their true ability rather than a good guess.