Using Weighted Hinge Questions (WHQs) to Assess Students’ Causal Understanding, pp. 4 of 10

More importantly, using progression models to craft options in WHQs helps teachers to uncover students’ existing understanding of historical concepts and account for them during the instructional process. Since students “reconstruct information” to fit it into their schemas – that is, “information that already exists in [their] minds” – comprehending students’ preconceptions ensures teachers’ instructions are interpreted by students as teachers intended, building on desirable thinking dispositions while not inadvertently reinforcing misconceptions (Santrock, 2018, p. 267).

Using Weighted Hinge Questions (WHQs) to Assess Students’ Historical Understanding

We offer two examples of WHQs that could be used to assess students’ historical conceptual understanding: a concept-based question that deals with students’ reasoning ability (Example 1) and a topic-based question that requires students to apply their conceptual understanding to a specific topic (Example 2). Here, we focus on the historical concept of causation and use the corresponding progression model by Lee and Shemilt (2009) in crafting the options in our WHQs. 

Example 1 
The first example below is a question that attempts to delineate students’ preconceptions when explaining causes in history.

To explain why Event X happened, it is best to find out:

  1. More details about Event X itself
  2. Who made Event X happen and what they did
  3. What sequence of events led to Event X
  4. What conditions allowed for Event X to happen
  5. How circumstances and actions related to Event X are interlinked

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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