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Tutz, Gerhard and Berger, Moritz (2016): Item-focussed Trees for the Identification of Items in Differential Item Functioning. In: Psychometrika, Vol. 81, No. 3: pp. 727-750

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A novel method for the identification of differential item functioning (DIF) by means of recursive partitioning techniques is proposed. We assume an extension of the Rasch model that allows for DIF being induced by an arbitrary number of covariates for each item. Recursive partitioning on the item level results in one tree for each item and leads to simultaneous selection of items and variables that induce DIF. For each item, it is possible to detect groups of subjects with different item difficulties, defined by combinations of characteristics that are not pre-specified. The way a DIF item is determined by covariates is visualized in a small tree and therefore easily accessible. An algorithm is proposed that is based on permutation tests. Various simulation studies, including the comparison with traditional approaches to identify items with DIF, show the applicability and the competitive performance of the method. Two applications illustrate the usefulness and the advantages of the new method.

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