The more effective question does make this distinction for students, therefore providing guidance concerning the task of analyzing. Thus, directive verbs must be carefully selected to clearly reflect the task required of students and to be aligned to intended outcomes. Similarly, the object of the directive verb must be carefully written. Just as it is important to select the right verb, it is important to delimit the scope of the object of that verb.
As mentioned earlier, delimiting the scope of the task helps to avoid the robber of student responses containing ideas that were not meant to be assessed and the problem of extreme subjectivity when scoring responses. How to appropriately Limit the subject matter for a given essay question depends on different factors that require the teacher’s subject matter expertise and the teacher’s knowledge of what material was Introduced to the students In the course. Among other things, how to restrict the task can depend on the subcategories of the domain and how they relate to each other, and on what parts of the subject domain were
How to Prepare Better Essay Questions – 26- emphasized in class. The following example illustrates the process of limiting the scope of the task for a given essay question. Example of an Evolving Essay Question that Becomes More Focused 1. Less focused essay question: Evaluate the Impact of the Industrial Revolution on England. 2. More focused Evaluate the impact of the Industrial Revolution on the family in England. 3. More focused the role of fathers In poor communities of England. 4.
More focused the role of fathers in poor communities of England eased on whether or not the Industrial Revolution improved fathers’ abilities to provide the material necessities of life and education and training for their children. 5. More focused their children. Explain how the role of a father as provider changed with the Industrial Revolution and whether or not the changes were an improvement for fathers striving to provide for In the examples above, five essay questions are provided. Example 1 has little structure.
The directive verb is “evaluate” and the object of the verb is “the impact of he Industrial Revolution on England. ” Very little guidance is given to students about the task of evaluating and the scope of the task. A student reading Example 1 may ask: a. The impact on what in England? The economy? Foreign trade? A particular group of people? B. Evaluate based on what criteria? The significance of the revolution? The quality of life in England? Progress in technological advancements? C. What exactly do you want me to do in my evaluation? How to Prepare Better Essay Questions – 27 –
Example 2 delimits the task for students by specifying a particular unit of society in England affected by the Industrial Revolution (family). Example 3 is even more focused than example 2 because students are asked to focus on a subunit of the family (fathers) and a specific community of families in England (poor communities). With Example 4, the task is delimited by giving students a criterion for evaluating the impact of the Industrial Revolution (whether or not fathers’ abilities to provide for their children in two different ways improved because of the Industrial Revolution).