Developing Formative Assessments on Evidence for Pre-University History, pp. 4 of 8

Framing each MCQ item choice to reflect understandings or misconceptions about evidence enables the provision of specific feedback for each option selected by the student. For example, a student who chooses the option “The Korean War happened a long time ago and we cannot go back in time” likely has misconceptions about evidence and its relationship with the past. The student would subsequently receive feedback clarifying how analyzing sources allow us to make sense of the past even though we were not present when the Korean War took place. Developing these MCQs on the Singapore Students’ Learning Space (SLS) platform has the added advantage of giving students such targeted feedback immediately through the automated feedback function. In addition to feedback on their answer choice, students will also be shown the “best option” and an explanation of why it may reflect a stronger understanding of historical evidence. This mechanism promotes metacognition as students reflect on the given feedback and perform self-correction.

Students’ responses to the MCQs will also inform teaching. Students who were unable to identify the best answer in Question 1 (see Appendix A) probably ignored evidence from the source excerpt and the context of the American public’s disillusionment with an adventurous foreign policy. This learning gap could be addressed by students observing the process of “close reading” of sources. Teachers could also engage students in groups to clarify, summarize, answer questions and/or make predictions from sources (Nokes, 2011).

Similarly, Question 2 seeks to gather evidence on students’ understanding of the historian’s role in analyzing sources as evidence. The option selected by students could reveal that they have a good understanding of how historians use sources to construct history (Option 3). It could also reflect their misconceptions about evidence, including confusion between history and the past (Option 2) or perceiving that the role of the historian is largely to read sources at face value (Option 1). To correct these misconceptions, students could be instructed on how historians approach sources as evidence or be involved in conducting authentic historical inquiries to deepen their appreciation of historical methods and processes (Nokes, 2011).

Use of Short-Answer Questions in the Formative Assessment

 While MCQs provide quick indications of students’ understanding, short-answer questions make students’ thinking in analyzing evidence visible. Compared to long essays, short-answer questions can be more targeted in assessing students’ understanding of historical concepts and skills because it removes the cognitive load of conceptualizing and sustaining an argument. The short-answer questions adapted from the HAT example (on “Edison and the Kansas Housewife”) further managed the cognitive demand of the formative assessment through its design. The questions provided short descriptions of sources for corroboration with the main source instead of source excerpts (see Figure 2). This was intended to free up students’ cognitive resources to assess evidence rather than expend effort reading and inferring from additional excerpts.

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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