Focused Response Essays

B. Essay Questions (Short and Extended Response)


Essay questions are a more complex version of constructed response assessments. With essay questions, there is one general question or proposition, and the student is asked to respond in writing. This type of assessment is very powerful -- it allows the students to express themselves and demonstrate their reasoning related to a topic. Essay questions often demand the use of higher level thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Essay questions may appear to be easier to write than multiple choice and other question types, but writing effective essay questions requires a great deal of thought and planning. If an essay question is vague, it will be much more difficult for the students to answer and much more difficult for the instructor to score. Well-written essay questions have the following features:

Essay questions are used both as formative assessments (in classrooms) and summative assessments (on standardized tests). There are 2 major categories of essay questions -- short response (also referred to as restricted or brief ) and extended response.

Short Response

Short response questions are more focused and constrained than extended response questions. For example, a short response might ask a student to "write an example," "list three reasons," or "compare and contrast two techniques." The short response items on the Florida assessment (FCAT) are designed to take about 5 minutes to complete and the student is allowed up to 8 lines for each answer. The short responses are scored using a 2-point scoring rubric. A complete and correct answer is worth 2 points. A partial answer is worth 1 point.

Sample Short Response Question 
(10th Grade Reading)

How are the scrub jay and the mockingbird different? Support your answer with details and information from the article.

Extended Response

Extended responses can be much longer and complex then short responses, but students should be encouraged to remain focused and organized. On the FCAT, students have 14 lines for each answer to an extended response item, and they are advised to allow approximately 10-15 minutes to complete each item. The FCAT extended responses are scored using a 4-point scoring rubric. A complete and correct answer is worth 4 points. A partial answer is worth 1, 2, or 3 points.

Sample Extended Response Question 
(5th Grade Science)

Robert is designing a demonstration to display at his school’s science fair. He will show how changing the position of a fulcrum on a lever changes the amount of force needed to lift an object. To do this, Robert will use a piece of wood for a lever and a block of wood to act as a fulcrum. He plans to move the fulcrum to different places on the lever to see how its placement affects the force needed to lift an object.

Part A  Identify at least two other actions that would make Robert’s demonstration better.

Part B  Explain why each action would improve the demonstration.

 

Response papers

A response paper is a short essay which conveys the writer's reaction to one or several texts that he or she has read. This kind of assignment is usually given to students after they have read a number of articles, or a work of fiction.

A response paper is often structured in the following way:

  1. In the introduction, the book(s)/article(s), etc. that has been read is introduced and the focus of the response paper is stated
  2. In the Body, one or several specific issues are brought up for examination
  3. In the Conclusion, the argument (the 'response' to the texts that have been read) is summed up and some conclusion is offered

Depending on the teacher's instructions, response papers may or may not require the use of external sources.

Note that response papers are not reviews; the writer is not supposed to offer a value statement on the text that is being discussed. Instead, the response paper (which is sometimes called 'reaction paper') is a kind of critical close reading of a specific aspect of one or several texts.

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Print Mar. 14, 2018 of http://awelu.srv.lu.se/genres-and-text-types/writing-in-academic-genres/the-essay-format/response-papers/

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