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  1. Šárka Portešová

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Description: The stereotype that more able children solve tasks quicker than their less capable peers exists both in and outside education. The F > C phenomenon (Beckmann, 2000; Beckmann et al., 1997) and the distance-difficulty hypothesis (Ferrando & Lorenzo-Seva, 2007; Thissen, 1983) offer alternative explanations of the time needed to complete a task; the former by the correctness of the answer and the latter by the relative difference between the difficulty of the task and the ability of the examinee. To test these alternative explanations, we extracted IRT-based ability estimates and task difficulties from a sample of 514 children (53% girls, Mage = 10.3 years) who answered 29 balance beam tasks (Inhelder & Piaget, 1958). We used the ability estimates predictors in multilevel regression models when controlling for children’s ability levels. Our results challenge the ‘faster equals smarter’ stereotype. We show that ability levels predict the time needed to solve a task only when the task is solved incorrectly. Moreover, children with higher ability levels take longer to answer items incorrectly, and tasks on children’s ability levels take more time than very easy or difficult tasks. We conclude that the relationship between ability, task difficulty, and answer correctness is complex and warn education professionals against basing their professional judgment on students’ quickness.


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