I’ve had some good feedback for this short answer response writing guide so I thought I would post it here.
This was one of my first resources I created after “cracking the code” of the IB Psychology assessments and it was in the midst of my creation of the themantic model of curriculum design.
Understanding the requirements of short answer responses, and in particular what AO1 and AO2 looks like in answers is key to teaching the right amount of content in this course.
Just quickly, I want to offer two alternative definitions of describing and explaining that we use:
Describing: providing accurate summaries of individual units of information. A description might include definitions, identifications, statements and outlines.
Explaining: communicating understanding of significant relationships in response to a question or problem. An explanation will require description to provide context, but will clearly show how two or more individual units of information are related.
For example, many students describe studies in great detail. But they fail to explain them; that is to say, they fail to convey the significant relationship that they demonstrate.
I’ve found that students’ lack of explanation isn’t out of laziness, it stems from a lack of understanding of significant relationships in the first place. I think we’ve drastically underestimated how much processing time students require in order to grasp significant relationships (e.g. between particular variables and behaviours) and we’re doing them a disservice by burdening them with too many building blocks and not enough time to understand relationship chains. Our themantic units attempt to remedy this.