Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Assessment Strategies/Essays

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Learning Targets

The reader will be able to:

1)Understand the benefits of essay questions for both Students and Teachers

2)Identify when essays are useful


Essays, along with multiple choice, are a very common method of assessment. Essays offer a means completely different than that of multiple choice. When thinking of a means of assessment, the essay along with multiple choice are the two that most come to mind (Schouller).The essay lends itself to specific subjects; for example, a math test would not have an essay question. The essay is more common in the arts, humanities and the social sciences(Scouller). On occasion an essay can be used used in both physical and natural sciences as well(Scouller). As a future history teacher, I will find that essays will be an essential part of my teaching structure.

The Benefits for Students[edit]

By utilizing essays as a mean of assessments, teachers are able to better survey what the student has learned. Multiple choice questions, by their very design, can be worked around. The student can guess, and has decent chance of getting the question right, even if they did not know the answer. This blind guessing does not benefit the student at all. In addition, some multiple choices can deceive the student(Moore). Short answers, and their big brother the essay, work in an entirely different way. Essays remove this factor. in a addition, rather than simply recognize the subject matter, the student must recall the material covered. This challenges the student more, and by forcing the student to remember the information needed, causes the student to retain it better. This in turn reinforces understanding(Moore). Scouller adds to this observation, determining that essay assessment "encourages students' development of higher order intellectual skills and the employment of deeper learning approaches; and secondly, allows students to demonstrate their development."

"Essay questions provide more opportunity to communicate ideas. Whereas multiple choice limits the options, an essay allows the student express ideas that would otherwise not be communicated." (Moore)

The Benefits for Teachers[edit]

The matter of preparation must also be considered when comparing multiple choice and essays. For multiple choice questions, the instructor must choose several questions that cover the material covered. After doing so, then the teacher has to come up with multiple possible answers. This is much more difficult than one might assume. With the essay question, the teacher will still need to be creative. However, the teacher only has to come up with a topic, and what the student is expected to cover. This saves the teacher time. When grading, the teacher knows what he or she is looking for in the paper, so the time spent reading is not necessarily more. The teacher also benefits from a better understanding of what they are teaching. The process of selecting a good essay question requires some critical thought of its own, which reflects onto the teacher(Moore).


Multiple Choice. True or False. Short Answer. Essay. All are forms of assessment. All have their pros and cons. For some, they are better suited for particular subjects. Others, not so much. Some students may even find essays to be easier. It is vital to understand when it is best to utilize the essay. Obviously for teachers of younger students, essays are not as useful. However, as the age of the student increase, the importance of the essay follows suit. That essays are utilized in essential exams such as the SAT, SOLs and in our case the PRAXIS demonstrates how important essays are. However, what it ultimately comes down to is what the teacher feels what will best assess what has been covered.


1)What Subject would most benefit from essays?

A: Anatomy

B: Mathematics for the Liberal Arts

C: Survey of American Literature

D: Golf

2)What is an advantage of essay assessment for the student?

A) They allow for better expression

B) There is little probability for randomness

C) The time taken is less overall

D) A & B

3)What is NOT a benefit of essay assessment for the teacher

A)They help the instructor better understand the subject

B)They remove some the work required for multiple choice

C)The time spent on preparation is less

D) There is no noticeable benefit.

4)Issac is a teacher making up a test. The test will have multiple sections: Short answer, multiple choice, and an essay. What subject does Issac MOST LIKELY teach?





Answers 1)C 2)D 3)D 4)A

References Cited[edit]

1)Moore, S.(2008) Interview with Scott Moore, Professor at Old Dominion University

2)Scouller, K. (1998). The influence of assessment method on students' learning approaches: multiple Choice question examination versus assignment essay. Higher Education 35(4), pp. 453–472