How to create your own constructed response assessments

How to create your own
constructed response assessments
You have seen what a constructed response assessment
looks like and why it is important to use them with your
Now it’s time to see how to create your own CR
assessments for the lessons and units that you teach. Since at
this time, there is no great repository for quality constructed
response items for all topics at all grade levels, you need to
know how to create your own.
This section will provide you with
1) a process that you might consider when designing and
using a constructed response assessment,
2) a list of possible constructed response “products,”
3) the components of a constructed response item,
4) what to include in a scoring rubric, and
5) a template to use to guide the development of your own
constructed response assessments.
Keep in mind, as the diagram above suggests, we are trying to
get students to produce answers and solutions, not just select them.
The next page outlines a process for the development and use
of construct response items. While it may seem lengthy and rather
formal, it is important as you begin to design your own assessments
that you consider all of those steps. Soon it will become second
nature to you, and you will not need to consult the process page or
use the template to quickly create high-quality assessments for your
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 1
Constructed Response Assessment
Development & Use Process
Clearly identify the concept or
benchmark you want to assess?
What do you want your students to
“construct”? What will the product be? Ex.
Written response, labeled graph, diagram, etc.
Design a real-world prompt connected
to your students’ lives to frame the
assessment for your students.
Create the task you will ask your students
to complete. Be clear as to what the
product should look like and include.
Create a scoring
Give the assessment to your students
and monitor them as they work on it.
Score the responses using the rubric:
Students or teacher or both can score it.
Analyze the responses, and revise
instructional strategy, if needed.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 2
CR Products
Here are some ideas of products you can ask your students to
create for their assessment. This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but
it will give you some grade-appropriate ideas to get started.
K-2 Ideas
Diagrams/pictures (possibly labeled or explained to you)
Explanations (oral or written) of simple histograms (bar graphs)
Venn Diagrams for comparisons and classifications
Lists (students generate)
Completing a statement or short story either in writing, orally, or
with a picture
Construction of a model (with labeled parts) based on something
the students have just learned about; e.g. a spider
Given objects or pictures, ask students to organize them in some
Any of the following grades 3-5 ideas that you feel can be adapted
for successful use by your students
3-5 Ideas
Written response to a prompt and question(s)
Labeled diagram
Explanation of data provided in a table or graph
Creation of a graph using data that is provided; possibly with an
explanation of what they can conclude from their constructed
Explanation of a photograph or answer to a question based on a
Solution to a problem: Students are asked how they would solve
a problem using the assessed concepts.
Persuasive Letter written to a given audience using the assessed
concepts as evidence to support their position.
Construction of a model that demonstrates understanding of the
assessed concept.
Any of the K-2 ideas that can be adapted to appropriately assess
your students.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 3
Components of a Constructed Response
There are four main components of a constructed response
1. The Prompt
2. The Product
3. The Task
4. The Rubric
Each of these is described in more detail below.
The Prompt
The “prompt” should be used to “set the stage” for the
assessment. It should relate to the world of your students, which will
be different depending on their age and background.
It should be interesting
An interesting prompt can capture a student’s attention and
interest in completing the task. Too often it seems that students “just
don’t want to write.” Maybe it is because we don’t ask them to write
about interesting things.
Think back to the first constructed response assessment in the
toolkit (page 4) on the function of leaves on a tree. Students could
have been asked to, “Explain the function of leaves on a plant.” While
some students would need only that to motivate them to write what
they know about leaves, many other students need more.
The story about the two boys talking while one picks leaves off
of a tree is something that all students can relate to. Undoubtedly all
have picked at least some leaves off of a plant at least once. This
may engage them and encourage them to think about how that might
have impacted the plant. That prompt does not give them the
knowledge needed to answer the question, but it motivates them to
think about and try to answer it.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 4
It should be local
Use local geographical features, landmarks, and industries in
your prompts when they apply. For example, if you are assessing
your students understanding of expansion and contraction matter
causes by changing temperatures, include the Blue Water Bridge in
your prompt. If you are assessing students’ understanding of the
water cycle, mention Lake Huron or the St. Clair River in your prompt.
It should require reading (grade appropriate amounts)
Fourth and fifth grade students should occasionally be exposed
to paragraph-length prompts. Longer prompts let you set a more
detailed scene and give students practice with the types of prompts
they will see on the science MEAP test. Here is a prompt from a
prototype of the 2002 5th grade science MEAP.
Here is the constructed response question that they ask based
on the above prompt:
Shannon decided that the regular yellow popcorn was the BEST popcorn. Identify
two pieces of evidence from the chart that support her decision.
Students are required to read the entire paragraph and
understand the chart in order to answer the question. That prompt
would be used for several other selected response questions in the
cluster. Students need to be challenged by such prompts before and
should be used to them by the fifth grade test.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 5
Not all prompts need to be paragraphs, however. At the lower
grades they will need to be short and to the point. You can orally
explain the prompts in greater detail to better set the scene, but
young students should not have to wade through so much writing
they lose track of the task.
It should be relevant
The prompt should relate to the task be asked of your students.
An interesting, local story that does not relate to the task you are
asking your students to complete may just serve to confuse them.
The Product
The types of products you ask your students to produce have
been discussed. When choosing the type of product you should
What type best lends itself to students showing what I
really want to see that they know? In other words, a bar
graph might be a good product to discuss changes in
populations in an ecosystem over time, but would
probably not be a good one to assess students’
understanding of simple machines.
What is developmentally appropriate for your students?
What type of product have I not used in a while. To
accommodate various learning styles and to give students
practice with several types, you should mix up the product
The Task
The task, as defined here, refers to the actual directions to your
students as to what they should do, such as…
… create a bar graph using the data in the table and explain…
… using what you have learned about gravity and friction
explain why the car had difficulty stopping…
… draw and label the parts of the plant used for the intake and
transport of water and minerals throughout the plant.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
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Here are some guidelines for evaluating your tasks:
A well-written constructed response task should:
 Clearly tell students what they are to do.
 Clearly tell students where they are to write their
response. If the students are to write their response on
the assessment page, there should be sufficient space for
them to respond completely.
 Use simple, but authentic, vocabulary and good sentence
 Identity the information or material that the students
should use when preparing their response (data chart,
graph, lab activity report, etc.)
 Clearly indicate the process that should be demonstrated
(identify, explain, predict, describe, etc.)
 Provide cues to students as to what the finished product
might look like. (Write a paragraph, list two pieces of
evidence, draw a diagram and label… etc.)
The Rubric
The rubric is an important part of the constructed response
assessment. It is addressed in detail in the following section on
“Scoring Constructed Response Assessment.”
Evaluating The Assessment
It is important to observe your students while they are
completing the assessment to see if they understand the directions
and know what is expected of them.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 7
If, upon scoring the responses, a large percentage of your
students score poorly on the assessment, it may be because of one of
two reasons: 1) They do not have a good understanding of the
science content and concepts you are assessing, or 2) the assessment
is not designed well enough to allow them to show their
You will need to be the judge which of the above is occurring.
It is likely that by evaluating where their mistakes or omissions are
you will be able to tell whether the assessment needs to be modified
the next time or whether you may need to go back and teach the
concepts in a different way so that more students master them to the
desired level.
On the other hand, if a large percentage of your students do
very well on the assessment if may be because 1) they have a strong
understanding of the concepts being assessed, or 2) the assessment
is not challenging them sufficiently to express a deep understanding
of the concept. If the latter is the case, the constructed response
assessment is not much different than a selected response
assessment that assesses at a very low level.
In either of the above cases, do not be afraid to evaluate the
assessment and modify it at that time for readministering to your
current students or make notes so that you will not use it again next
year in exactly the same form.
St. Clair County ISD
The How
Page 8
Constructed Response Assessment Template
Use this template to design a well-thought constructed response assessment. The
sections below are suggested considerations only. You might want to consider more factors
than this when designing your assessment.
What is the benchmark, standard, or concept you will be assessing?
This is to be used as a(n):
____ Pre-assessment
____ Embedded assessment
This assessment will ask students to “construct” a(n)…
____ Post-assessment
Product ideas:
Short, written response
Labeled graph or diagram
Letter or other “real-world”
List (evidence, procedure
steps, further questions, etc.)
Oral response
How will the responses be scored?
____ Student (peer) only
____ Student with teacher review
____ Teacher only
How many points will the assessment be worth? _________________
Describe the prompt and how it connects to the lives of your students or to their previous
Write the complete constructed response assessment here, including all prompts (text,
graph, diagram, etc.). Provide students with enough cues so they clearly know what is
expected of them.
Create a rubric for scoring the assessment.