Utilizing Extended Response Items to Enhance Student Learning

extended response item
Jamesmcq24/Creative RF/Getty Images

"Extended response items" have traditionally been called "essay questions." An extended response item is an open-ended question that begins with some type of prompt. These questions allow students to write a response that arrives at a conclusion based on their specific knowledge of the topic. An extended response item takes considerable time and thought. It requires students not only to give an answer but also to explain the answer with as much in-depth detail as possible. In some cases, students not only have to give an answer and explain the answer, but they also have to show how they arrived at that answer.

Teachers love extended response items because they require students to construct an in-depth response that proves mastery or lack thereof. Teachers can then utilize this information to reteach gap concepts or build upon individual student strengths. Extended response items require students to demonstrate a higher depth of knowledge than they would need on a multiple choice item. Guessing is almost completely eliminated with an extended response item. A student either knows the information well enough to write about it or they do not. Extended response items also are a great way to assess and teach students grammar and writing. Students must be strong writers as an extended response item also tests a student's ability to write coherently and grammatically correct.

Extended response items require essential critical thinking skills. An essay, in a sense, is a riddle that students can solve using prior knowledge, making connections, and drawing conclusions. This is an invaluable skill for any student to have. Those who can master it have a better chance of being successful academically. Any student who can successfully solve problems and craft well-written explanations of their solutions will be at the top of their class. 

Extended response items do have their shortcomings. They are not teacher friendly in that they are difficult to construct and score. Extended response items take a lot of valuable time to develop and grade. Additionally, they are difficult to score accurately. It can become difficult for teachers to remain objective when scoring an extended response item. Each student has a completely different response, and teachers must read the entire response looking for evidence that proves mastery. For this reason, teachers must develop an accurate rubric and follow it when scoring any extended response item.

An extended response assessment takes more time for students to complete than a multiple choice assessment. Students must first organize the information and construct a plan before they can actually begin responding to the item. This time-consuming process can take multiple class periods to complete depending on the specific nature of the item itself.

Extended response items can be constructed in more than one way. It can be passage-based, meaning that students are provided with one or more passages on a specific topic. This information can help them formulate a more thoughtful response. The student must utilize evidence from the passages to formulate and validate their response on the extended response item. The more traditional method is a straightforward, open-ended question on a topic or unit that has been covered in class. Students are not given a passage to assist them in constructing a response but instead must draw from memory their direct knowledge on the topic.

Teachers must remember that formulating a well written extended response is a skill in itself. Though they can be a great assessment tool, teachers must be prepared to spend the time to teach students how to write a formidable essay. This is not a skill that comes without hard work. Teachers must provide students with the multiple skills that are required to write successfully including sentence and paragraph structure, using proper grammar, pre-writing activities, editing, and revising. Teaching these skills must become part of the expected classroom routine for students to become proficient writers.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Meador, Derrick. "Utilizing Extended Response Items to Enhance Student Learning." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-an-extended-response-item-3194254. Meador, Derrick. (2020, August 26). Utilizing Extended Response Items to Enhance Student Learning. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-extended-response-item-3194254 Meador, Derrick. "Utilizing Extended Response Items to Enhance Student Learning." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-an-extended-response-item-3194254 (accessed June 4, 2023).