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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondI really like using the assessment for learning at year 13, especially when I'm teaching photosynthesis. I find that photosynthesis is a quite complex topic. And I find that using questions and assessment for learning techniques, for me, has been a really good area to work on. So is it that you're looking for misconceptions in that area for your questioning? Or is it that you're looking for quality of answer, or a bit of both? I think it's probably a bit of both, actually. One of a pieces of research I was reading about was the common misconceptions about photosynthesis that lots of people share this idea that plants take in their food through their roots.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 secondsAnd I was interested to see from my students if they have that common misconception as well. So I set up a set of diagnostic questions that I used. I gave them time to actually respond to it themselves and to get some really detailed feedback-- a combination of open-ended questions as well as multiple choice questions. And then, it was also working out, well, why have they got these misconceptions? And I did questioning, working in small groups, and using a variety of different methods to sort of actually delve into that. So what it seems to me that you're doing is that you're creating that opportunity to really get what's going on inside student's heads.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 secondsYou're trying to really tap into their understandings through your questions. Absolutely. It's important that you don't just understand or find out what the students know. It's their understanding that's important. Yeah, that's really important for me. And then acting on that evidence. And then acting on the evidence, thinking of ways in which we can go in-- if it's a misconception-- that we can go in and teach around that misconception and maybe use experimental techniques or looking at the data to go and actually try and teach them what the correct answer is and get them to learn for themselves what the correct answer is. OK, so in primaries, is that pretty much the same, Martha, or?

Skip to 1 minute and 48 secondsI think so I think assessment for learning is such a useful tool for teachers. Andy was talking about using solo with children. But actually, as a teacher, it also gives you a basis to think about where do I go with these more able learners? If they've got lots of information already, how can I push them further? So having clear criteria for a lesson based on some kind of taxonomy is also a planning opportunity for teachers. It gives you that understanding of where they really are and also then a good tool for planning the next steps.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 secondsHave you found it with training the children into understanding the language, because one of the things you talk about is language for learning, or just a language for learning? The children, actually, even the youngest children, see words just as words. And what you find is if you start to use particular language with children, they understand what that language means. If they're having the experiences every day, and they've got a really clear understanding of what you're doing to support them as a teacher and why, and they understand why you want them to be able to learn better, then the language just falls into place behind that. It's the understanding that's really key.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 secondsAnd I think for primary school children it's very important for them to know you want them to move forward. And you're giving them the tools to move forward. And they want to move forward, because they believe in themselves when you do. I've found that a lot of the students really like the language, particularly because some of it is new to them, and it isn't something they're using in everyday language. So when you start talking about metacognition, and you're talking about thinking about thinking, learning about learning, those kinds of things, actually, some of the students really like that. They like to go home and tell their parents what they've been doing.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 secondsAnd even some of the words from solo that we might shy away from using-- we might want to use hand signs or something in the classroom instead-- but actually the student's quite like saying "I think I'm multi-structural at the moment in my thinking on this. To become relational, I need to." And when you pick up a year 9 student's book, who's perhaps not the most able, and they've written a sentence using those words about their learning, they're not just showing you that they're able to process and figure out where they're at, but they're also able, then, to move on from there.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 secondsSo I think giving them that language and freeing them up to be able to take responsibility and move on from that on their own, with you supporting them and with the other students in the class helping, is actually a really attractive thing for students, because it makes them feel a part of what's going on in the classroom.

Using questions and facilitating discussion

Probing questions and interactive dialogue help teachers find out what students are thinking as they engage with science activities.

This is a point picked up in this video, which is an excerpt from a round table discussion between course educators Chris Harrison and Andrea Mapplebeck and science teachers Andy Fehler, Jonathan Lye, and Martha Worthington, at the National STEM Learning Centre in York.

In the next step we will see how analysing other teachers’ use of questions in the classroom can be useful in honing our own skills in this area.

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This video is from the free online course:

Assessment for Learning in STEM Teaching

National STEM Learning Centre