Historical Concepts and National Examinations: Have O-Level Structured-Essay Questions Encouraged the Teaching of Historical Concepts?, pp. 6 of 10

Table 1: Different O-Level SEQs with Causation as a Link

 

Historical Concept

Question

Examination

Agency – people were active participants in the events and trends of the day (Barton, 2012, p. 131).

‘The main reason why Communism failed in the Soviet Union was Gorbachev’s weak leadership.’  How far do you agree with this statement?  Explain your answer.

History 2172/2
Combined Humanities 2190/3
2007 Examination

Significance

To what extent did the Cuban Missile Crisis threaten world stability?  Explain your answer.

Combined Humanities 2192/3
2010 Examination

Intention

How far was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour caused by its intention to expand its Empire?  Explain your answer.

History 2173/2
Combined Humanities 2192/3
2009 Examination

Motivation

Why did Stalin introduce the Five-Year plans for industry?

History 2172/2
Combined Humanities 2190/3
2005 Examination

Consequence

How far do you agree that Hitler’s policies were a success for German people during the 1930s?  Explain your answer.

History 2172/2
Combined Humanities 2190/3
2004 Examination

Inevitability

Was the breakdown of the wartime alliance between the USA and USSR inevitable after the war ended in 1945?  Explain your answer.

History 2173/2
Combined Humanities 2192/3
2008 Examination

*Questions are from SEAB (2012a) and can be found in Appendix A

Apart from issues related to assessing for conceptual or historical understanding, the explicit target skills assessed through the SEQs in Section B appeared to be more stable.  The first question in each set – sub-question (a) – required students to demonstrate the skill of explanation.  The second question in each set – sub-question (b) – required students to demonstrate the skill of evaluation.  This common structure came directly from the ‘Assessment Objectives’ section of each syllabus, and showed that exam setters constructed each set of questions with clear specifications in mind.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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