Developing Formative Assessments on Evidence for Pre-University History, pp. 5 of 8

The short-answer questions provide students with a short description of three sources (see Figure 3). Students are asked to assess the utility of each source in providing more certainty about the reasons for US involvement in the Korean conflict indicated by Truman’s radio address (the main source), and to explain why. The questions ascertain if students are able to compare information provided by two sources, identify their similarities and assess the extent to which one source is able to support the conclusions drawn from the other source. For example, a strong response to Question 3 (Figure 2) would recognize that Acheson’s speech was not useful for corroboration with Truman’s radio address. This is because the speech did not directly address the situation in Korea. Furthermore, the speech was made before North Korea’s invasion of South Korea in June 1950, which influenced US foreign policy towards Korea and shaped Truman’s radio address.

Each short-answer question requires a response of less than 100 words. Yet, they allow teachers to make several observations on students’ understanding of evidence and ability to corroborate sources. Students’ answers may demonstrate their unfamiliarity with the use of corroboration to analyze sources and construct knowledge in history. The answers could also indicate limited background knowledge, preventing students from identifying similarities between the sources. To address these learning gaps, students could revise how historians approach sources as evidence, observe the thinking process of corroboration or engage in authentic inquiries.

The choice of the three sources and their descriptions influence the strength of evidence that teachers can obtain from the short-answer question. For example, NSC-68 was listed as a possible source for corroboration because of the document’s significance on US actions in the Korean War. In contrast, a description like “US National Security Documents from the late 1940s to 1950s” would be too vague and does not provide students with sufficient focus to draw similarities with Truman’s radio address. Such descriptions are likely to generate responses based on common sense and not historical understanding.

Figure 3: Sources featured in the short-answer questions for students to corroborate to Truman’s radio address

  1. US National Security Council Planning Document 68 (NSC-68)
  2. Classified Soviet sources detailing interactions between Kim and Stalin prior to June 1950
  3. US Secretary of State Acheson’s Jan 1950 speech outlining US commitment to Taiwan and Japan

Related Teaching Materials

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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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