To Fill in the Blank or Not…That is the Essay!

There are two types of constructed-response items that were discussed in chapter 7: completion and essay items.  We will explore the advantages and disadvantages of both and show an example of each.

Completion Items

One of the big advantages of completion items is that it requires students to come up with an answer and not just select one from a list.  This will allow teachers to check for understanding and not allow students to just make a lucky guess.  Another advantage is the fact that many different completion items can be on a test.  Teachers can create assessments that test a broader array instead of looking at just a few areas on a unit or lesson.

With advantages, there comes some disadvantages.  One of the big disadvantages is it can only look at information that student recall.  Students who are good at memorizing can do great without really understanding a concept.  As long as they remember the words, they can do well on the test.  Another problem is that multiple answers can be correct or be answered within a blank.  For example, students could answer Elf Owl, Harris Hawk, White Dove, or Gila Woodpecker to the question, A bird that makes the Saguaro Cactus its home is the ________.

Here is an example of a completion item.

1.) The Terrestrial Planet that’s year (revolution around the Sun) is shower than its day (rotation around its axis) is _____________.  Answer: Mercury

Essay Items

There is one part of the test that allows an educator to get a good understanding what a student comprehends about a topic, it is an essay question.  Teachers can get a good understanding of what the student has learned an if the child can express what they understand about a topic.  Another advantage that an essay item has is it allows students to express their ideas through their writing.  It can be a great way for an educator to see if a student is making a connection outside the class or content area.

Just like with completion items, essay have some disadvantages. One disadvantage is that an essay assesses students on a small idea and does not give a good sample of the students learning during a lesson or unit.  A teacher can only get a response to one idea or concept.  Another negative thing about essays is that they can be scored differently by different people.  One person could put more emphasis on handwriting while another will look at spelling and grammar.  It can be very subjective.  They also take a long to correct and assess.

Here is an example of an essay item.

2.) Objective: Given an example of a Monarch Butterfly, students will tell what type of protection that animal uses (Poison, Armor, Mimicry, or Camouflage) and describe how this protection helps the animal survive.

Essay item shown to learners: What form of protection does the Monarch Butterfly use and how does that form of protection keep the Monarch safe from Predators?

 

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