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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Introducing Assessment for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds What we are calling a hinge is just a point in a sequence of teaching when you need to check if your students are ready to move on, and if yes, in which direction. The hinge point question is simply the question you ask your students when you reach the hinge. It’s a diagnostic question and the responses to the question give you evidence about what you and your students need to do next. For example, a primary school teacher had been teaching a class about lines of symmetry, and to check the class’s understanding, she displayed six polygons labelled A to F. And for each one, she asked the class to indicate by finger voting how many lines of symmetry the shape has.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds From the responses, the teacher could quickly gauge the level of understanding of the whole class and also easily identify which students were struggling.

The characteristics of Hinge point questions

In this video Dylan explains hinge-point questions step-by-step.

As Dylan outlines:

  • a hinge is a point in a lesson when you need to check if students are ready to move on, and if yes, in which direction;
  • a hinge-point question is a diagnostic question that you ask your students when you reach the hinge, responses to which give you evidence about what you and your students need to do next.

The video concludes with an example from primary maths.

Hinge-point questions are designed to help the teacher to check on learning, at a point where they feel most students have developed the necessary conceptual understanding, so that they can decide what to do next.

A hinge-point question is a brief item of formative assessment which enables the teacher to know whether it is appropriate to move on, to briefly recap, or completely re-teach, a concept before moving on – what Dylan calls the most important decision a teacher has to make on a regular basis.

Typically hinge-point questions:

  1. Have wrong answers that match the most common student misconceptions or alternative conceptions;
  2. Are difficult for a student to get the correct answer(s) with the wrong reasoning or knowledge;
  3. Are quick to answer (in less than two minutes, and ideally in less than one minute);
  4. Allow the teacher to realistically view and interpret all students’ responses in 30 seconds or less and so will often be in multiple choice format.

In the PDF below are 5 examples of hinge-point questions that demonstrate the characteristics above.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Assessment for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre