Sunday, 31 March 2013

ASE session: asking good questions

Why are good questions important?

Robin Millar of York University began this session with the comments:

  • Assessment is the most significant driver of real change.
  • Defines real learning goals
  • It provides an "operational definition" of what the learning means.

I would have to agree with all of the sentiments above.

The emphasis on quality of written communication has changed the way many science departments teach. It was the six mark questions that have driven this.

Range of learning intentions:

  1. Recall
  2. Understand ideas and models
  3. Present and analyse information
  4. Carry out standard procedures
  5. Process display and interpret information

We were introduced to the York Science Project. Where questions are being written to check understanding.

We were told: "York Science is about checking understanding. Interested in writing good questions that check understanding. You can't see understanding, you can only check it."

I knew this already because I have been using York Science Resources in my lessons. The questions/activities are useful because they not only give an idea about what the students don't know, but what they do believe and in some cases how strongly.

Mary Whitehouse described some way of questioning: construct an explanation;

  • chose sentences from multiple choice to make explanation - see second photo,
  • chose true sentences from a list,
  • identify ideas from text (directed activity related to text)

Carol Davenport then spoke about writing exam questions. To be honest it is a topic I haven't thought much about before. The exam papers arrive, the students complain, I say "oh dear they won't know how to do that", and that is as far as it goes.

Carol described that when she writes for the exam board she starts with the point on the specification and writes an answer that related to that point.
Then find the context and the question.
The process for writing an exam question is quite involved. The question goes through several drafts and revisions and is seen and reviewed by a lot of people. Even though it doesn't feel like that when I see the final paper!

Consider "is your question going to get the answer you think it will?"

Finally Mary Whitehouse showed us an example of a poor question.

What makes a good question?

While the top photograph shows a version of the question suitable for American students talk of "sidewalk" and an image of a parking meter may confuse UK students. The word "crack" could also cause confusion.

Below is an edited version of the same question.

Teachers download questions from all sort of places, so be aware of the question.

I know I have selected activities that once the students start them I realise are poorly worded. However, I find that end of topic tests from published schemes of work are the most poor; students struggling to interpret the question and access the marks.

Project 2061 was mentioned as the source of questions. But US based and biased towards US language.

Finally Robin Millar said when summing up:

  • Question doesn't need to be perfect, just good enough to do a job... Back and forth with writing questions.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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