Measuring Complex Achievement: Essay Questions



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Measuring Complex Achievement: Essay Questions

  • Chapter 10
  • Jessica Rigsby

Objectives for Chapter 10

  • Discuss the use of essay questions
  • Compare two types of essay questions
  • Hypothesize the advantages and disadvantages of using essay questions
  • Compare two types of scoring rubrics
  • Evaluate sample essays using a scoring rubric
  • Create examples of two types of essay questions

What’s So Great About Essay Questions?

  • They allow assessment of students’ abilities to:
  • Formulate problems
  • Organize, integrate, and evaluate ideas and information
  • Apply knowledge and skills

Forms and Uses of Essay Questions

  • May be used to measure knowledge of factual information
  • Full potential realized with more higher-order thinking problems

Useful in meeting learning outcomes concerned with the abilities to conceptualize, construct, organize, integrate, relate, and evaluate ideas in content areas such as: history, civics, literature, science, math, etc.

  • Useful in meeting learning outcomes concerned with the abilities to conceptualize, construct, organize, integrate, relate, and evaluate ideas in content areas such as: history, civics, literature, science, math, etc.
  • Most widely used when the main focus is on student writing in any subject
    • Examples: distinguishing between narrative essays, expository essays, and persuasive essays or focusing on writing process

Confucius Say…

  • Confucius Say…
  • The freedom of response provided by essay questions is not an all-or-nothing affair but, rather, a matter of degrees.
  • Extended- Response

Restricted Response Essay Questions

  • Usually limits both the content and the response by restricting the scope of the topic to be discussed, generally indicated in the question
  • Useful for measuring learning outcomes requiring interpretation and application of data in a specific area
  • Any outcomes measured by an objective interpretive exercise can be measured by a restricted response essay question

Examples of Restricted Response Essay Questions

  • Describe two situations that demonstrate the application of the law of supply and demand. Do not use those examples discussed in class.
  • State the main differences between the Vietnam War and previous wars in which the United States has participated.
  • Why is the barometer one of the most useful instruments for forecasting weather? Answer in a brief paragraph.

The Restricted Response essay question provides for more ease of assessment, but it restricts the scope of the topic to be discussed and indicates the nature of the desired response to the student which limits his or her opportunity to demonstrate these behaviors on their own.

  • The Restricted Response essay question provides for more ease of assessment, but it restricts the scope of the topic to be discussed and indicates the nature of the desired response to the student which limits his or her opportunity to demonstrate these behaviors on their own.
  • Is there a better method for evaluating complex achievement…

Extended-Response Essay Questions

  • Freedom of response allows student to select information that they think is pertinent, to organize the answer in accordance with their best judgment, and to integrate and evaluate ideas as they deem appropriate
  • Places value on higher-order thinking skills

Examples of Extended-Response Essay Questions

  • Imagine that you and a friend found a magic wand. Write a story about an adventure that you and your friend had with the magic wand.
  • Compare developments in international relations in the administrations of President William Clinton and President George W. Bush. Cite examples when possible.

To Keep Things Simple…

  • Objective Interpretive- select
  • Restricted Response Essay- supply
  • Extended-Response Essay- write

Pros & Cons of Essay Questions

  • Apply your knowledge
  • They give student the options to chose what they want to write about
  • reasoning
  • The teacher can tell if the student studies or not
  • Can often prepare in advance what to write
  • Time consuming
  • Grading: grammar usage vs. content
  • Legibility
  • Hard to formulate ideas in time
  • Takes longer to grade

How Can We Change Those Cons to Pros?

  • Unreliability- clearly defining learning outcomes to be measured, properly framing questions, carefully following scoring rules, and obtaining practice in scoring
  • Amount of time- reserve use of extended-response questions for learning outcomes that cannot be measured well objectively

Limited Sampling- try to obtain as representative a sample of learning outcomes as possible (accumulate a series of essays throughout the school year to be included in a writing portfolio)

  • Limited Sampling- try to obtain as representative a sample of learning outcomes as possible (accumulate a series of essays throughout the school year to be included in a writing portfolio)

Suggestions for Constructing Essay Questions

  • Restrict use of essays to learning outcomes that cannot be measured well objectively
  • Construct questions that call forth skills specified in learning standards
  • Example box on page 235

Phrase the question so that the students’ task is clearly indicated

  • Phrase the question so that the students’ task is clearly indicated
  • Example:
  • Poor: Compare the Democratic and Republican parties.

Better: Compare the current policies of the Democratic and Republican parties with regard to the role of government in private business. Support your statements with examples when possible. (Your answer should be confined to two pages. It will be evaluated in terms of the appropriateness of the facts and examples presented and the skill with which it is organized.)

  • Better: Compare the current policies of the Democratic and Republican parties with regard to the role of government in private business. Support your statements with examples when possible. (Your answer should be confined to two pages. It will be evaluated in terms of the appropriateness of the facts and examples presented and the skill with which it is organized.)

Indicate an approximate time limit for each question

  • Indicate an approximate time limit for each question
  • Avoid the use of optional questions
    • Example Box page 239
  • Now that we have essay questions how do we score them?

Scoring Essay Questions

  • Tips to remember…
  • Use clear specifications of scoring criteria
  • Inform students of scoring criteria
  • Use an initial review to find “anchor” responses for comparison
  • Use descriptive rather than judgmental scores or levels (“writing is clear and thoughts are complete” vs. “excellent”)

Scoring for Restricted Response Essay Questions

  • In most instances, the teacher should write an example of an expected response
    • For example, if the student is asked to describe three factors that contributed to the start of the Civil War, the teacher would construct a list of acceptable reasons and give the student 1 point for each of up to three reasons given from the list

Scoring for Extended-Response Essay Questions

  • Analytic Scoring Rubrics
  • Consist of a rubric broken down into key dimensions that will be evaluated
  • Enables teacher to focus on one characteristic of a response at a time
  • Provides maximum feedback for students

Holistic Scoring Rubrics

  • Holistic Scoring Rubrics
  • Yield a single overall score taking into account the entire response
  • Can be used to grade essays more quickly
  • Does not provide as much specific feedback as analytic rubric
  • Should not consist of scores alone, but rather contain scores accompanied by statements of the characteristics of the response
    • Example Table 10.3 and 10.4

Suggestions for Scoring Essay Questions

  • Prepare an outline of the expected answer in advance and use a clear scoring rubric
  • Use the scoring rubric that is most appropriate
  • Decide how to handle factors that are irrelevant to the learning outcomes being measured

Evaluate all responses to one question before going on to the next one

  • Evaluate all responses to one question before going on to the next one
  • When possible, evaluate answers without looking at the student’s name
  • If especially important decisions are to be based on the results, obtain two or more independent ratings
  • Look out for bluffing! Page 247

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