Researcher to improve assessment testing for high school students

Author: Brandi Klingerman

Ying Alison Cheng Feature

Ying Alison Cheng, associate professor of psychology and fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame, will lead a $1.4 million project funded by the Institute of Education Sciences to develop the intelligent diagnostic assessment program (i-DAP) for high school statistics education. 

With the four-year award, Cheng will work with Indiana high school students and teachers to develop and analyze data collected from the cloud-based program. The goal of the i-DAP is to provide real-time feedback for high schoolers in non-advanced placement (AP) statistics courses and improve student engagement and learning of statistics.

In discussing the tool, Cheng said, “The i-DAP will allow students to see their results immediately, including individual strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, the program will also show teachers how their class performed as a whole so they can apply the results to adjust their own pace or teaching strategy.”

To create the system, Cheng will work with Notre Dame’s Center for Social Research, a part of the Center for Research Computing, to develop elaborate back-end algorithms and use state-of-the-art data mining techniques to allow the tool to relay fine-grain feedback. One aspect of the program will connect students to learning module recommendations based on their test performance through deep-learning neural networks, similar to how streaming services recommend movies and television shows based on previously consumed content.

This project developed out of previous research funded by Cheng’s Faculty Early Career Development Program award from the National Science Foundation. With that support, Cheng created the AP Computerized Adaptive Testing program, a testing system aimed at assessing students taking AP statistics courses. 

However, Cheng and her team found that AP students are less likely to need the engagement piece of testing that will be important for the i-DAP system. Therefore, it is critical to understand whether and how providing real-time diagnostic feedback and instant recommendation can improve student engagement, and examine if improved student engagement translates into better learning outcomes. 

“With this new project, we will be able to assess the diversity of ability that the non-AP population provides as well as identify how more engaged students are, since the AP population is already considered a highly motivated group of students,” said Cheng. “Additionally, it’s important that our assessment looks at a variety of students since statistics is a field that is vital to today’s labor force for both STEM and non-STEM industries.” 

Collaborators for the i-DAP include Cheng Liu, data scientist at the CSR; Jarek Nabrzyski, director of the Center for Research Computing; and Jennifer Kaminski, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics at Wright State University. Matthew Kloser, director of the Center for STEM Education, serves as an advisory board member for this project. 

To learn more about Cheng and her research, visit

Contact: Brandi Klingerman, research communications specialist, Notre Dame Research, 574-631-8183,

Originally published by Brandi Klingerman at on Oct. 15.