Developing Formative Assessments on Evidence for Pre-University History, pp. 3 of 8

Aligning the Assessment Construct with the Assessment Design

Modifying the HATs made it necessary to verify if the formative assessment design was successful in eliciting information on students’ understanding of evidence. This alignment between the assessment construct and the assessment design was achieved through (a) a strong understanding of the assessment construct (in this case, the concept of evidence), (b) the observable behaviors expected from students who hold strong understandings of the assessment construct and (c) the corresponding assessment items that could generate those behaviors (NRC, 2001; Seixas, et al., 2015).[iv] The relationship between these three components contribute to the validity of the assessment in eliciting relevant information on students’ understanding of evidence, and anchored the assessment development process. 

Incorporating Multiple Choice Questions into the Formative Assessment

Another adaptation to the HATs concerned the incorporation of Multiple-Choice Questions (MCQ) in the formative assessment. HATs do not contain MCQs because the question type does not provide opportunities for students to make thinking visible (Breakstone, 2014). MCQs, in assuming definitive answers, appear to run contrary to the nature of history which allows for different interpretations depending on how the historical issue and evidence are assessed (Breakstone, 2014; VanSledright, 2015). However, well-designed MCQs can provide teachers with quick information on students’ understanding and misunderstandings of historical concepts.

The MCQs developed as part of the formative assessment design recognized that the outcomes of historical thinking are not definite. Students are tasked to weigh the strengths of various options, and to select the option that was the “best” in the list of possible choices. Each MCQ item choice was also designed to reflect the strength of the respondent’s understanding about evidence. For example, for Question 2 (see Figure 1), both the first and third options were designed to be reasonable responses to the question. However, the third option is a stronger explanation compared to the first because it reflected a more sophisticated understanding of the nature of historical evidence and an awareness of historians’ treatment of sources. The first option, in contrast, suggests that sources can have a fixed property of being political and does not recognize the historian’s role in analyzing sources as evidence. The MCQ choices did not simply involve identifying the correct option in a midst of wrong answers. Instead, they reflect a range of responses, from most-to-least defensible[v].

Related Teaching Materials

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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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