Lesson One: A Rationale for Document-Based Questions
The document-based question (DBQ) is featured on all four New York State social studies assessments: The Grade 5 Elementary-Level Social Studies Test, The Grade 8 Intermediate-Level Social Studies Test, the Regents Examination in Global History and Geography, and the Regents Examination in United States History and Government.
A DBQ essay often measures the ability of students to work with multiple perspectives by reading and interpreting documents on social studies issues. Students will:
examine a variety of documents on a particular historic theme or issue.
respond to questions following each document.
incorporate documents and outside knowledge into an essay response.
are based on the social studies learning standards, core curriculum, themes, concepts, and performance indicators.
provide students with a common base from which they demonstrate what they know and are able to do.
focus on critical thinking skills.
are criterion-referenced and employ a scoring rubric.
Document-based questions may enable students to do the following:
make comparisons and analogies.
apply knowledge to the information provided.
take positions on issues or problems and support their conclusions.
look at issues from multiple perspectives.
utilize historical analysis skills.
apply critical thinking skills they will use as adults.
The DBQ represents a “real world” or authentic assessment, in that students:
read and analyze passages, charts, graphs, cartoons, and other visuals.
comprehend, evaluate, and synthesize the information into a coherent package.
These skills are required when reading a newspaper or newsmagazine. It is an excellent assessment of skills essential to an informed citizenship.
DBQs measure attainment of the five social studies learning standards, their key ideas and performance indicators, as found in the New York State Learning Standards for Social Studies, and core content. They constitute sound social studies practice by:
encouraging students to use the skills of a historian or social scientist by requiring them to read, analyze, apply, evaluate, and synthesize information.
assessing both content and skills while incorporating higher-order thinking.
The following "Sample DBQ" is based on the original Global History and Geography Regents Examination Test Sampler Draft (Spring 1999). This new "Sample DBQ" (created exclusively as an instructional resource for this tutorial) is a revision of the original "Test Sampler DBQ" and reflects the organization, structure, and scoring rubric of the current DBQ format that appears on New York State social studies assessments. This new "Sample DBQ" can be used in conjunction with the original "Test Sampler DBQ" to refine skills in essay construction for classroom-based assessments. Teachers can use both DBQs in a comparison exercise that answers the question, "How does the focus of a DBQ change when documents and questions are added and deleted?"
Changes made to the original "Test Sampler DBQ":
Revised Historical Context and Task
Expanded documents (# 1, 3, 4, 6)
New documents (# 2, 5, 7, 8)
New and revised questions for all documents
New Content-Specific Scoring Rubric (to reflect the Revised Generic Scoring Rubric effective June 2004), including "Key Ideas from the Documents" and "Relevant Outside Information"
New Practice Papers with scoring commentaries
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