Assessment for Learning in History: Maximizing Error Analysis to bridge students’ learning gaps in answering Source-Based Case Study Questions, pp. 3 of 13

(i)Pre-Lesson Preparation

1. Marking and coding

Error analysis begins with marking where history teachers can leverage on marking codes which at BSS was self-created. This is similar to the marking of English Language papers where common marking codes such as “Sp” (which means spelling errors) are often used by English Language teachers. In the Humanities (History and Social Studies) department at BSS, teachers have utilised the Professional Learning Circle to come up with common marking codes such as straight underlines with double ticks which mean well-explained answers; “ATQ” which means “Address the question” and “W T” which means “What’s wrong with this?” This is a necessary condition for AfL to take place because visual cues help students go about the process of understanding their learning strengths and areas for improvement. Marks are not written on students’ assignments as teachers focus on coding and also providing feedback.  An extensive review on the effects on learning and motivation of providing three types of feedback – grades, grades and comments and comments only – found that the effects were the most positive when it was done with comments only (Butler, 1988). Students who were accustomed to receiving marks in their SBCS assignments would feel uneasy at the start but with the correct message reiterated to students to focus on the effectiveness of feedback and evaluation, such fears can be easily managed.

2. Writing feedback on students’ answers

In tests and examinations where marks must be awarded, feedback can still be done in a simple manner which allows the teacher to quickly present some pointers for students’ reflections. Hattie and Timperley (2007) provides a helpful model of feedback which allows teachers to tap on even during the marking of tests and examinations. Their model discriminates between four levels of feedback: the task, the process, the self-regulatory, and the self-level. In my case, I would write short written feedback such as “Include the provenance for clues” (process level) and “Spot the missing element” (self-regulatory level) to provide cues to the next step of learning for my students. Lines are also deliberately drawn below such feedback to signal to my students that written responses are also expected at the identified points. Necessary space (lines) is provided by the teacher and time is also allocated in the classroom for students to respond to the feedback during error analysis. If the aim is to enable our students to regard feedback as important and to allow them to see the alignment with student-centred learning, we need to scope feedback such that this can appropriately that move their thinking forward. Comments like “Vague inference” and judgemental remarks like “Why do you write this after I have taught you so many times?!” will have a negative impact on students’ receptiveness to engaging in effective error analysis.

3. Selecting suitable answer scripts

The next step is to select suitable and authentic answer scripts that range from common problems and misconceptions to those which present a well-crafted argument. Sequencing of students’ answers play an important role for the teacher to move students’ current understanding of SBCS skills to their next level of performance. Suggested teacher’s answers can be weaved in as exemplars for students to examine and analyse. The usual copying of corrections is deliberately excluded to encourage students to develop and demonstrate their understanding.

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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