Nonword item generation: predicting item difficulty in nonword repetition
The current study employs item difficulty modeling procedures to evaluate the feasibility of potential generative item features for nonword repetition. Specifically, the extent to which the manipulated item features affect the theoretical mechanisms that underlie nonword repetition accuracy was estimated. Generative item features were based on the phonological loop component of Baddelely's model of working memory which addresses phonological short-term memory (Baddeley, 2000, 2003; Baddeley & Hitch, 1974). Using researcher developed software, nonwords were generated to adhere to the phonological constraints of Spanish. Thirty-six nonwords were chosen based on the set item features identified by the proposed cognitive processing model. Using a planned missing data design, two-hundred fifteen Spanish-English bilingual children were administered 24 of the 36 generated nonwords. Multiple regression and explanatory item response modeling techniques (e.g., linear logistic test model, LLTM; Fischer, 1973) were used to estimate the impact of item features on item difficulty. The final LLTM included three item radicals and two item incidentals. Results indicated that the LLTM predicted item difficulties were highly correlated with the Rasch item difficulties (r = .89) and accounted for a substantial amount of the variance in item difficulty (R2 = .79). The findings are discussed in terms of validity evidence in support of using the phonological loop component of Baddeley's model (2000) as a cognitive processing model for nonword repetition items and the feasibility of using the proposed radical structure as an item blueprint for the future generation of nonword repetition items.