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Building hinge-point questions into your day-to-day teaching

The diagram above (it is also available as a separate file [PDF]) lists eight interrelated questions about hinge-point questions in use. Below we provide supplementary comments on each of the questions.

You may find it useful to refer to the diagram and comments when you tackle the ‘Vignettes to develop your own thinking’ activity that comes in the next step of the course.

1. How often do I use a hinge-point question?

  • Hinge-point questions are used part way through the learning sequence so that you can check on all students’ understanding.
  • You may eventually need several per topic to give you scope to use at least one in each lesson.

2. How do hinge-point questions differ from other types of question?

  • Hinge-point questions should be able to be answered quickly so that the teacher can see which students have understood and which have not.
  • Hinge-point questions do not need time for students to discuss the possible answers.
  • Hinge-point questions check rather than probe understanding.

3. When is the best time to use hinge-point questions?

  • Hinge-point questions provide evidence for the teacher on current understanding at a point at which the teacher needs to check if the class is ready to move on.
  • Hinge-point questions can be used at any time in an individual lesson as long as the teacher is ready to act on the resulting evidence.

4. Which classes might hinge-point questions work with?

  • Any class, once students have become accustomed to the approach.
  • If some students are likely to copy the answer from other students, it may be better to ask them to close their eyes and raise 1, 2, 3 or 4 fingers to indicate their answer.

5. How would I recognise if hinge-point questions are working?

  • Evidence from hinge-point questions successfully helping you understand which students are or are not able to use the reasoning required.
  • Evidence from hinge-point questions helping you successfully to allocate students to appropriately differentiated follow up or remediation activity.

6. Might hinge-point questions cause problems in my classroom?

  • Possibly if students are unclear how you are using the evidence from the hinge-point question to support the next stage of learning. (It is worth you putting effort into explaining how.)
  • Possibly because they identify who has understood and who hasn’t understood the concept and this could affect motivation. (It is worth concentrating particular effort on those who’ve not understood.)

7. How do I deal with the answers from a hinge-point question?

  • You need to have planned in advance how to aggregate the responses, and which next steps different answers will entail.
  • You need to have decided how to react to the evidence: will you move on, or do some remedial work, or differentiate in the follow-on activity?

8. How will I organise groups to make the most of evidence from the hinge-point questions?

  • You might decide to place the students who got the hinge-point question wrong in the same group in the follow-on activity so that you can do remediation work with them.
  • You might spread the students who got the hinge-point question incorrect across the groups so that more knowledgeable students can help them in the follow-on activity.

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This article is from the free online course:

Assessment for Learning in STEM Teaching

National STEM Learning Centre

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