Essay questions are used quite extensively in the assessment process of most subject streams and medical education is no exception. Structured essay questions (SEQ) can be considered the preferred type of essay question by many due to its specificity and the structured nature which allows the marking of such questions rather efficient than marking an open ended long essay question. But, in any event, the necessity to use a structured essay question should be decided upon reviewing the expected outcomes of the course and the plausibility of other assessment methods in achieving a better result than by using SEQs.
When to use SEQ?
The basic principles that should guide an educator to integrate SEQ for the assessment will be in instances where the student is to assess on his or her understanding of the subject matter content as well as when the students are expected to reason with their knowledge in formulating an answer. Thus, if a learning outcome requires the students to indulge in complex thinking and formulate constructed responses, the SEQ or Essay questions would be the ideal tool to assess.
How to create a good SEQ?
First of all, the ability to develop good SEQ can be harnessed to a great extent through reading on how to prepare good SEQs. But, the rest of the expertise can only be achieved through experience and by reviewing the SEQs which was made earlier and the responses received for such questions. Thus, it is possible that, the SEQs that we prepare are not perfect but the idea is to minimize such errors as much as possible.
In this regard, following tips on preparing an essay / SEQ would be rather useful.
Align the questions with intended learning outcomes: This should be considered highly important and may require several revisions before it actually measures what it is intended to measure. Be specific and clear about the task that is expected of the students Present a reasonable task for the students to do within the intended time period. Provide the point value and the allocated time for the SEQ to the students: This will help the students to have an idea about the scope that they are required to write and prevent themselves from straying off the topic. State the criteria in which the student will be assessed on a particular essay question. Preview and review the essay question to improve its reliability and validity before and after the examinations.
Thus, formulating essay questions would be a time consuming task and building experience would be the best way forward in developing better SEQs.