Contextual Interference Effects in Early Assessment: Evaluating the Psychometric Benefits of Item Interleaving

Anthony D. Albano, Scott R. McConnell, Erin M. Lease, Liuhan Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Research has shown that the context of practice tasks can have a significant impact on learning, with long-term retention and transfer improving when tasks of different types are mixed by interleaving (abcabcabc) compared with grouping together in blocks (aaabbbccc). This study examines the influence of context via interleaving from a psychometric perspective, using educational assessments designed for early childhood. An alphabet knowledge measure consisting of four types of tasks (finding, orienting, selecting, and naming letters) was administered in two forms, one with items blocked by task, and the other with items interleaved and rotating from one task to the next by item. The interleaving of tasks, and thereby the varying of item context, had a negligible impact on mean performance, but led to stronger internal consistency reliability as well as improved item discrimination. Implications for test design and student engagement in educational measurement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number133
JournalFrontiers in Education
StatePublished - Aug 7 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding. This work was supported in part by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, through Grant R305A160034, Expanding Individual Growth and Development Indicators of Language and Early Literacy for Universal Screening in Multi-Tiered Systems of Support with 3-Years-Old to the University of Minnesota. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the US Department of Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Albano, McConnell, Lease and Cai.


  • classroom assessment
  • contextual interference effect
  • early childhood
  • interleaving
  • item analysis
  • reliability


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