Study Guide

Field 132: Psychology/Sociology 
Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

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Test Directions for the Constructed-Response Assignment

This section of the test consists of one constructed-response assignment. You are to prepare a written response of approximately  300 to 600  words on the assigned topic. You should use your time to plan, write, review, and edit your response to the assignment.

Read the assignment carefully before you begin to write. Think about how you will organize your response.

As a whole, your response must demonstrate an understanding of the knowledge and skills of the field. In your response to the assignment, you are expected to demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the content area through your ability to apply your knowledge and skills rather than merely to recite factual information.

Your response to the assignment will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

 start bold PURPOSE: end bold  the extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
 start bold SUBJECT MATTER KNOWLEDGE: end bold  accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
 start bold SUPPORT: end bold  quality and relevance of supporting details
 start bold RATIONALE: end bold  soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

The constructed-response assignment is intended to assess subject matter knowledge and skills, not writing ability. However, your response must be communicated clearly enough to permit valid judgment of the scoring criteria. Your response should be written for an audience of educators in this field. The final version of your response should conform to the conventions of edited American English. Your written response must be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work.

Be sure to write about the assigned topic. You may not use any reference materials during the test. Remember to review what you have written and make any changes you think will improve your response.

Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

subarea roman numeral 6 
Pedagogical Content Knowledge

 start bold Use the data provided to complete the task that follows. end bold 

Using your knowledge of content and sound pedagogical practices in psychology and citing evidence from the exhibits provided, write a response of approximately  300 to 600  words in which you:

 start bold Exhibit 1 end bold 

 start bold Learning Activity end bold 

 start bold Class Context end bold 

High school psychology students are working through a unit on neuroscience and the brain. In previous lessons they have studied the basic elements of the nervous system and the biological bases of behavior. Currently students are learning about the structure and function of the brain. In this activity, students are asked to apply their understanding of the lateralization of brain functions.

 start bold Excerpt from Lesson Plan end bold 

 start bold Standard: end bold 

This lesson aligns with the following Content Skills standard from the  start italics Oklahoma Academic Standards for the Social Studies—Psychology. end italics 

 start bold Content Standard 3: The student will investigate the structure, biochemistry and circuitry of the brain and the nervous system to understand their roles in affecting behavior. end bold 

1. Identify and describe the structure and function of the brain including the hypothalamus, prefrontal lobe, corpus callosum, hemispheres, and amygdala.

 start bold Lesson Objectives: end bold 

Students will be able to describe the functioning of cerebral hemispheres.

Students will be able to use evidence to evaluate arguments and generalizations.

 start bold Exhibit 2 end bold 

 start bold Student Assignment end bold 

  • read the passage and the prompt below.
  • discuss the passage and the prompt for five minutes with your in-class study group.
  • then write a brief essay responding to the prompt.
  • use evidence from the passage to support your analysis.

A friend of yours announces that he has figured out why he does not do well in his math classes. He says, "I learned it in this psychology course. Left-brained people are analytical and logical, but right-brained people are creative and artistic. I like art and think of myself as creative, so I must be right-brained, and that's why I'm not good at math."

Why is your friend's view too simplistic?

 start bold Exhibit 3 end bold 

 start bold Student Writing Sample end bold 

It is true that some of our brain activity is concentrated more in one hemisphere—left or right—than the other. Some amazing studies on patients with split-brain surgery show this to be true. People like epilepsy patients who have their corpus callosum cut end up losing some abilities like recognizing faces, noticing tones in people's voices, or feeling emotions when listening to music. This shows that the two hemispheres specialize in controlling different tasks.

My friend says there is a creative center in the right half of the brain, but this isn't so. There is a language center of the brain, and it is on the left side. But language isn't all analytical and logical, and it isn't all creative, so language being on the left side doesn't really back up my friend's theory. He would be better off saying that he should work separately on developing both sides of his brain so that he can be a more well-rounded and multi-talented person.

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

 start bold Please note: The sample response provided below is for review purposes only and should not be used in a response on an operational exam. Use of the exact words and phrases presented in this sample response will result in a score of "U" (Unscorable) due to lack of original work. end bold 

The learning activity presented in this lesson plan will be effective in detailing the ways that neuroscience can impact a person's day-to-day behavior. By having the student research the concept of neuroscience and the brain and understand the basic concepts of brain structure, the student would be able to build a foundational knowledge base on how nature (i.e., the brain) can impact a person in their everyday life. As well as having the student incorporate reading, talking with their group members, and writing will help to further develop the student's understanding of the topic via multiple modes of synthesizing information.

The student writing sample is a good source to examine to see how well this student understood the psychology learning activity. When analyzing the student’s work sample, a strength that is displayed is in the first paragraph where the student uses the example of “split-brain surgery” to demonstrate the importance of various parts of the brain (i.e., corpus callosum). This demonstrates some prior knowledge on the topic and shows the student utilizing the prior knowledge to achieve the purpose of the assignment.

An area of need would be in relation to the second paragraph, which does not follow the same reasoning structure as that of the first paragraph—utilizing an example from the field of brain and neuroscience research to build an argument against the “simplistic” viewpoint of the friend mentioned in the prompt. One may assume that the students in this class may have already learned about the “language center” of the brain; however, without demonstrating examples to show that such functioning exists on this side of the brain, it may appear that the student is simply making a generalization on the topic (much like the friend in the student assignment). It also does not appear that the student uses evidence from the passage in order to build an argument as to why their friend's viewpoint is “simplistic” in nature; the student appears to try to dig for information to satisfy the second part of the assignment.

One instructional strategy that could help the student improve on his or her area of need would be to implement a “turn and talk” approach. Turn and talk is an approach that allows students within the class to participate in a discussion rather than having just a few students participate in a class discussion. As the activity is currently written, the students briefly are allowed a chance to discuss the passage with their peers. After allowing the students to write responses, it may be beneficial for a student, such as this one, to be able to have the chance to hear the question again (“Why is your friend's view too simplistic?”), then have the student turn to their partner to review what they wrote down for their response, and then have each pairing share out their thoughts and ideas to the class. By doing this, the student is allowed another chance to hear his or her peer's viewpoints on the assignments as well as their understanding as to the importance of neuroscience on day-to-day life activities.

In addition, by utilizing a turn and talk approach, this will build on the student's strength in regards to the first paragraph by utilizing concrete examples (i.e., split-brain surgery) to explain a complicated concept (i.e., neuroscience). The turn and talk approach would allow the student to hear how other students may have approached the second paragraph he or she wrote in a non-confrontational way as well as possibly allow said student to demonstrate his or her knowledge base to the classroom community. When implementing such a strategy, it is important for the teacher to take on a facilitator approach rather than being the main provider of information until after each pair of students has had a chance to talk.

Rationale for the Sample Strong Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The response largely achieves the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by generally describing how the learning activity will be effective (having the students understand brain functioning and its impact on day-to-day life and using multiple ways of processing the information). The response generally addresses all three of the bullet points of the assignment. The response provides a generally accurate and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge by providing a general analysis of how the student writing sample identified both a student strength and a student need (use or lack of use of concrete examples). In addition, the response provides a general discussion of an instructional strategy (turn and talk) to help build on the student's strength. More elaboration and specific, supporting evidence throughout the response would have made this a stronger answer. Overall, this response reflects a general understanding of the subject matter.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

This learning activity will be effective by having the student read, talk, and write about the brain. The student will be able to learn about the brain's structures and how each functions in a way that impacts a person's behavior. The student will be able to self-reflect on how their brain may impact them in regards to how good they are in sports, music, school, and so forth. By being able to read, talk, and write about the brain the student will be able to utilize different forms of understanding the content. By having the student write down their response I, as their teacher, would be able to offer constructive feedback as well as see how the student processes information via a written format (which could then be reviewed and revised by the student).

When analyzing the student's work sample, a possible strength may be that they have some prior knowledge on the topic and were able to use it in the first paragraph (talking about epilepsy, split-brain surgery). The student did well showing how both examples can impact a person's day-to-day life such as listening to music, recognizing faces, and noticing tones of people's voices. A possible weakness may be in the second paragraph where the student's response to their friends “simplistic” view is also “simplistic,” the student does not use any examples to suggest that their friend does not have a deep understanding of how the brain works.

One way to help use the student's strength to build on their weakness is by allowing the student a chance to talk with a partner after they have written their brief essay. By doing so, this will allow the student the chance to hear what their partner may have written and to discuss their understanding on how left/right brain thinking isn't as simple as it may be.

Rationale for the Sample Weak Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The purpose of this assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) is only partially achieved. The writer attempts to answer all three bullets of the prompt, but is only able to provide a limited application of subject matter knowledge throughout the response. The writer provides few relevant examples and does not delve deeper in relation to why certain strategies would be effective in helping the students learn the content. The writer seems to miss the second half of the third bullet entirely, as the response does not address how an instructional strategy would help build on the student’s strength in order to improve on the student’s weakness. Overall, this response reflects a partial understanding of the subject matter.

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the constructed-response assignment.

Characteristics that guide the scoring of responses
Purpose The extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
Subject Matter Knowledge Accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
Support Quality and relevance of supporting details
Rationale Soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

Scoring Scale

Scores will be assigned to each response to the constructed-response assignment according to the following scoring scale.

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4  start bold The "4" response reflects a thorough knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is fully achieved.
  • There is a substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is sound; there are high-quality, relevant examples.
  • The response reflects an ably reasoned, comprehensive understanding of the topic.
3  start bold The "3" response reflects a general knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is largely achieved.
  • There is a generally accurate and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence generally supports the discussion; there are some relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a general understanding of the topic.
2  start bold The "2" response reflects a partial knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is partially achieved.
  • There is a limited, possibly inaccurate or inappropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is limited; there are few relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a limited, poorly reasoned understanding of the topic.
1  start bold The "1" response reflects little or no knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is not achieved.
  • There is little or no appropriate or accurate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence, if present, is weak; there are few or no relevant examples.
  • The response reflects little or no reasoning about or understanding of the topic.
U The response is unscorable because it is illegible, not written to the assigned topic, written in a language other than English, or lacking a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B There is no response to the assignment.