Developing Formative Assessments on Evidence for Pre-University History, pp. 2 of 8

Assessments designed specifically for formative use and targeting disciplinary learning outcomes in the A-Level History Syllabus could yield more useful information to impact teaching and learning, compared to the use of summative assessment tasks. Effective formative assessment tasks need to be (a) short, (b) carefully constructed to specific historical learning outcomes and (c) designed to make relevant student thinking visible (Breakstone, 2014). These assessments broaden the range of tools teachers can use to elicit information on students’ learning.

With this objective in mind, we embarked on a small-scale project to develop formative assessments that would help A-level history teachers identify strengths and gaps in students’ understanding of historical concepts and skills (see Appendix A). The project focused on assessing students’ understanding of evidence – a historical concept fundamental to understanding how historical knowledge is constructed. This article outlines the assessment development approach, resources used and observations on this process of assessment design.

Adapting History Assessments of Thinking (HATs) to the Local Context

The process of developing a specific formative assessment approach did not begin from scratch. Instead, it built on the significant work of the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), which has developed a series of formative assessment tools on historical thinking. These assessments, known as History Assessments of Thinking (HATs), were designed to assess students’ abilities in evaluating evidence. The HATs that were adapted for this formative assessment design focused on students’ use of evidence, including contextualization and corroboration.[ii]

From the outset, two modifications were made to the original HATs.[iii]HATs typically require students to exhibit their understanding of evidence through historical knowledge. As the selected HATs were designed for a topic that was not in the A-Level History Syllabus, adapting the assessment involved melding syllabus content with the HAT’s design features. In addition, the construct of close reading was incorporated into the assessment as teachers had indicated that this was a challenge for some students.

Related Teaching Materials

Appendix1.65 MB

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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