By Lorraine Giroux, Education Officer, EQAO
Planning your assessment ahead of time will provide you and your students with a clear destination and a roadmap for instruction to get there.
What are the characteristics of a good open-response reading test question? How do I create clear questions that measure student understanding? How can I ensure that my questions measure the expectations and learning content that I have taught? Are the questions fair and equitable for all?
Each year EQAO provides instruction to its Item-Writing Committee members—an “item” is a test question in EQAO language—on how to write questions for assessments. Questions on the OSSLT determine whether students have the skills necessary to meet the standards for reading comprehension and written communication according to expectations in
The Ontario Curriculum in all subjects up to the end of Grade 9.
These educators then develop both multiple-choice and open-response test questions that measure reading comprehension according to curriculum expectations. (Open-response questions allow students to construct their own answers.)
Knowing more about the processes used to create OSSLT questions may be useful to educators who want to develop high-quality classroom test questions.
Assessment methods should be related to the goals and objectives of instruction. EQAO advocates using a variety of classroom methods to assess reading comprehension. Any question and any student response will provide only a portion of the information needed. Knowing how to create good open-response reading questions and using them when appropriate and in combination will add layers of information to assess students’ learning, monitor progress and plan next steps. You might think of this in terms of using a variety of colours in a painting to render an image.
Here are some general guidelines for educators developing open-response reading questions at both the board level and in the classroom, based on EQAO’s work. Consider working together with others to follow the process of creating questions, and then look collaboratively at student responses through moderated marking. Due to limited space, we’ve added valuable links to information for your reference.
Step 1: Determining Expectations and Content
Determine in advance what expectations and learning content are to be measured. What will the students understand, know and be able to do to demonstrate their learning? Once you determine what the students are expected to learn, you can begin to develop an understanding of how you will know if the students have learned it.
Step 2: Selecting the Type of Reading Text
Select the type of reading text (literary, informational or graphic) you will use as the basis for questions. Ensure that the text contains accurate and current information. Make sure to choose a short text that will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of explicit (directly stated) and implicit (indirectly stated) information, as well as their ability to make connections by linking their prior knowledge and personal experiences to what they have read. Use a text type already taught, taking into account the level of difficulty, level of abstraction, complexity of subject matter and relevance to the age of the students. Make sure the text provides sufficient new information so that questions can’t be answered using only prior knowledge.
Step 3: Developing Questions
you have your expectations and learning content (prescribed by
The Ontario Curriculum) for a unit and you have chosen your reading text, you can begin to develop open-response questions. Open-response questions should deal with both explicit and implicit ideas in the reading text. You might want to order the questions by difficulty (easy to hard) or specificity (specific facts to big, overall ideas).
Question difficulty is determined by
Use the following tips to develop your questions:
For more tips on developing questions, view the
Developing Open-Response Reading Questions Checklist.
Step 4: Reviewing Questions
EQAO’s Assessment Development Committee members review all EQAO test questions and reading text for alignment with the curriculum and assessment blueprints, for developmental appropriateness and for instructional worthiness.
Then EQAO’s Sensitivity Committee members ensure that test questions are free from language or content that may have a negative impact on the performance of some students.
View EQAO’s Sensitivity Considerations.
You may find it helpful to review your open-response reading questions using the
Reviewing Your Open-Response Reading Questions Checklist.
Examples of Open-Response Reading Test QuestionsNow that you’ve written some questions, have a look at two examples from the OSSLT administered in April 2009. (EQAO’s test questions are field tested for validity before they appear on the test.) Each reading selection will dictate the nature of the questions, as will each question’s purpose.
Step 5: Final Check!
When you are ready to test your students, choose questions that will enable you to make a valid inference about your students’ reading comprehension. Students with good comprehension should be able to answer these questions correctly. The information you gather should help you focus on improving the reading skill and learning of your students.
EQAO continues to be committed to providing information that is meaningful and useful to teachers and to supporting efforts to promote enhanced learning for every student in your class. Classroom assessments are the most important source of information about student progress. By combining the information from your classroom tests with that from provincial assessments, you and your students can come to a valid and reliable understanding of their learning.