Developing Formative Assessments on Evidence for Pre-University History, pp. 6 of 8

The formative assessment that was developed comprised both MCQs and short answer questions. Both question types were included for a specific purpose in eliciting students’ understanding of evidence. MCQs provide quick indicators of students’ understanding, while short-answer questions provide opportunities to observe students’ thinking. The affordances of SLS provide teachers with access to the answers of specific students and aggregated data of students’ answers. The latter can reflect variations in students’ understanding within a class or cohort. Teachers could also use the MCQ responses to identify which students’ short-answer responses they want to focus on.  

A Model of Formative Assessment on Historical Evidence

Teachers can implement this formative assessment design in the course of teaching the Korean War, and when developing students’ understanding of historical evidence and skills. The assessment also provides a design model that teachers can use to develop similar formative assessments on evidence for other topics. These assessments should feature the following:

  1. A meaningful inquiry question;
  2. A rich source that allows students to make inferences, and presents a tension between the rhetoric of its creator and historical context;
  3. MCQs that ask students to comprehend the source and make judgments on its usefulness; and
  4. Short answer questions that require students to assess the usefulness of other sources in relation to the main source and explain their analysis.


This article reflects a modest attempt to develop formative assessment tools for the Pre-University History classroom. It aims to help teachers make more accurate inferences about students’ learning gaps and make better use of limited curriculum time. The assessment allows teachers to observe students’ understanding of evidence and ability in analyzing sources more quickly and more clearly compared to an SBCS or essay question. The use of such versions of formative assessment in the history classroom will allow teachers to make evidence-based decisions on whether they should focus on historical concepts, argumentative writing or other related aspects in their next lessons. The evidence could also offer indications as to whether students have reached an expected level of conceptual understanding. Teachers can then proceed more confidently to the next topic, and consider how to build on students’ prior knowledge. Equally important is the value of such assessments in reminding teachers of the core learning outcomes of a curriculum that focuses on developing historical understanding.

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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