Study Guide

Field 137: Journalism 
Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

Recommendation for individuals using a screenreader: please set your punctuation settings to "most."

The following materials contain:

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 4 
Pedagogical Content Knowledge

 start bold Use the information in the exhibits to complete the assignment that follows. end bold 

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

In the exhibits, you will find a draft story submitted by one student to the journalism teacher, a list of sources the student used to write the story, and a list of criteria the teacher could use to evaluate the student's story.

Exhibit 1: Student's Draft Story

A high school journalism teacher is reviewing draft materials submitted by students for the school's online newspaper. The following is one student's draft story.

 start bold Another student club at Northside end bold 

Students at Northside High who want to help people in the community will find it easier and more convenient to do that through a new club that has been established thanks to the efforts of two sophomores at the school.

Last February Lily Wu and Greg Richardson approached Northside science teacher Mrs. Jacobs about starting a student club focused on helping those in the community who are in need. "I volunteered in a local shelter with my dad," said Wu, "and that was kind of a turning point for me. I was so surprised to see all the people in our community who really need help just to get by day to day, so I decided I'd try to do something to help." When Wu mentioned this idea to her friend Greg Richardson, he was eager to get on board. Wu and Richardson figured that starting a student club at Northside would be a good way to get other interested students involved as well. "We had no idea how much time and effort it would take to make this happen," says Richardson. "But with lots of help from Mrs. Jacobs, we finally got the club up and running."

This club is a worthwhile idea that should be good for the school as well as the community. Northside students should be grateful for all that Wu, Richardson, and Jacobs have done to make it a reality.

The Soup Kitchen Volunteer Club will plan and organize volunteer opportunities at a local soup kitchen for student members. In addition, club members will run special events, like food collection drives to collect food to donate to the soup kitchen, as well as a clothing and toiletry collection drive to collect items for the Fifth Street Homeless Shelter. The club now has nine members, including Wu and Richardson. Wu, the President, is busy organizing meetings, doing outreach to local agencies, and planning upcoming activities. "A big priority right now is to recruit more members," says Wu. "I think lots of Northside students care about helping people, so now we just need to find those students and convince them it will be worth their time and effort to join." According to Principal Jackson, five years ago a similar club was established at Northside that focused on helping people in need. But after two years of struggling to keep it going, it finally dissolved due to lack of leadership and inadequate student interest.

Wu invites anyone who thinks they might be interested in joining the Soup Kitchen Volunteer Club to get in touch with her any time. All are welcome!

Exhibit 2: Student's List of Sources

The following is a list of sources used by the student in writing the story.

Exhibit 3: Teacher's Evaluation Criteria

Teacher's evaluation criteria may include but are not limited to:

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 

This student should interview the director of the soup kitchen or someone else from the community being served. Writing about helping the homeless without engaging with representatives of that population might seem alienating and even dehumanizing. Direct quotations would put a relatable face on those whom the students would be volunteering to help and foster deeper understanding.

One significant strength is that the student has selected a topic with clear interest/relevance to his/her audience. Students will naturally want to know about clubs at their school and ways to help their local community. The club is actively recruiting new members, which makes this article purposeful and timely.

One significant learning need is in writing headlines. The headline "Another student club at Northside" contains virtually no specific information and is unintentionally dismissive: it invites being read as "Just another club." Also, a headline should hook the reader, but this headline is generic, not engaging, and not even curiosity-inducing. A student looking for volunteer, community service, or socially conscious opportunities, would have no indication that this article might be relevant.

Another learning need is in the area of support. For example, the article's purpose is to inform readers that there is a new student organization, Soup Kitchen Club, that is seeking members to help the community, and it narrates how Lily Wu was inspired to found the club. Including the paraphrase from Principal Jackson undercuts this purpose by implying that Lily Wu's efforts are not timely and probably futile and causes the article to conclude with an inappropriately negative tone.

I would use the following activity to address the student's difficulty with supporting the main idea. I would propose an article about school sports and ask the class to make a list of categories of readers who might encounter such an article. I would lead a discussion to generate a list such as the following:

After separating students into small groups or pairs, I would assign one type of reader to each group, asking them to prepare a list of ideas/questions that that group might be particularly interested in. The groups would report back to the whole class while I listed the ideas/questions on the board or a projection device, noting the frequency with which certain areas repeat or overlap. As a group, the students could then prioritize a list of ideas and specific information that should be covered in such a story and know how to extend past what is already known.

All students, including the one who wrote this article, would benefit from this activity by having learned an approach to writing about any subject and a way to determine what to include from a reader's perspective. High school students are developing their capacity for perspective, taking and hypothesizing the kinds of information that would be meaningful to a variety of readers. Since student journalists know that their writing really will be read, not just by a teacher to make a judgment, but by real people seeking information. Journalism teachers are well-positioned to encourage development of those abilities which will benefit all students, not just those interested in Journalism, in developing their ideas.

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 generally fulfills the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by identifying and explaining a revision to the list of sources, one student strength, two student learning needs, and an instructional approach for one of those needs. The response reflects an accurate and appropriate application of Journalism subject matter knowledge in comprehending the specific and relevant strengths and needs, focusing on the expected reader relevance of student publication with a clear understanding of what is feasible and how tone impacts audience. Also, the response proposes and itemizes a developmentally relevant, systematic instructional approach that would assist students in applying these principles. Abundant, specific reference to the prompt exhibits provides sound supporting evidence, and the ideas are elaborated with some relevant examples and explanations. For instance, the discussion of the inappropriateness of the Principal Jackson paraphrase is clearly explained in terms of its negative impact and irrelevance to the article. In addition, the writer offers a thoughtful rationale for each task, explaining the need for an added source, the understanding of interest and relevance in student publications, the purpose of an engaging headline, and an understanding of how students effectively learn new perspectives. Overall, the response reflects a general understanding of the subject matter.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

One addition the student should make to the sources to be used for the story would be to find a student who was at the school when the club that failed before was in existence (statement from Principal Jackson). This could be someone who was or wasn't in the club but who could give some background for what the old club did and why it failed. This would flesh out Principal Jackson's remark (4th paragraph) and would give a sense of history for students about students who attended the school before them and what the school was like then.

One significant strength of the story is that it includes information on who to contact if students want to join the club. This satisfies the need for Audience Interest/Relevance (from Teacher's Evaluation Criteria). Even if they don't know Lily Wu or Greg Richardson, they'd probably be able to find Mrs. Jacobs because she's identified as a science teacher.

One learning need shown in the story is the Headline. Headline is on the Teacher's Evaluation Criteria. I know that the actual name of the club is too long to be in the headline, but the headline should at least give some idea of what the club is about. Right now, unless they're really just looking for ANY club to join, most students wouldn't really be hooked by this caption and might skip right over the story.

A bigger learning need, though, is knowing how to fill in Supporting Details (from Teacher's Evaluation Criteria). The story talks about how much time and effort the two students put in and how much the teacher helped, and the third paragraph says that students should be grateful. But right now, we only know that Lily is busy organizing meetings, doing outreach, and planning. We don't really have any information about everything that went into getting the club set up and what Mrs. Jacobs did at all, especially since she's a science teacher.

I would address this need by teaching a class on how to make a list of interview questions before students go out to interview sources. That way, all the students, not just the one who wrote this story, would know how to prepare for an interview so they can get all their questions answered at once and not have to keep going back. This approach would be effective because it would teach the staff to be respectful of the interviewees' time and also would help them get all the information in one place to make it easier to write the story. They can always get too much information because it's easier to cut out material than to add it in if you don't have it.

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.

This response partially achieves the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by attempting to respond to all the prompt's tasks. The examinee has provided some limited accurate subject matter knowledge in the description of the learning need involving headlines. However, the response demonstrates a preponderance of inaccurate understanding in its discussion of student sources, student strength, and student understanding of what actually is of interest to student readers and the suggestion of how to teach that skill. For instance, student readers would be less interested in exactly what went into setting up the club than in what might be expected of members and exactly how to contact the club for more information or to join. While the examinee attempts to provide support for each task response, the serious subject matter problems render the support irrelevant. In addition, the stated instructional strategy is vague, indicating no idea of the content or the process of this instruction. The examinee offers a rationale for the responses to the prompt, but the deficiencies in Journalism subject matter knowledge are compounded by the attempts to justify inappropriate and inaccurate suggestions. Overall, the response reflects a poorly reasoned 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.