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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second SPEAKER 1: Well, I’d like you to have a little think to yourselves. I don’t want you to talk about this with anyone in the room– I’d like you to do this individually. On your tables, you should all have some A-B-C-D cards in front of you. You just want to get one A-B-C-D card each.

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds So I’ve placed my egg, with a partially permeable membrane, into some golden syrup. Now it’s really important that you understand the golden syrup has a very high concentration of solute, of sugar, OK? So therefore, a lower concentration of water. It’s a higher concentration of solute than inside the egg. There is solute inside the egg, but it is not as highly concentrated as the solute that is surrounding it. I’d like you to go and have a think to yourselves. I’m going to give you about 30 seconds to just think, so keep your cards down for the moment. What do you think will happen?

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds So read the question carefully, and what do you think would happen if I left it for 24 hours?

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds OK. If you want to vote now, hold the cards up nice and clear so I can see them. So everybody hold your cards up.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 seconds OK, got a nice spread of different ideas round there. Now, frustratingly, I’m not going to tell you the answer right now. I’m going to tell you the answer in a few minutes, OK? I have got one second question for you, though. I’m interested to know why you chose that answer, OK? So again, 30 seconds or so to go and read through the question, and don’t talk about it for this particular instance, I just want you to think about what the answer is, and be ready to share your response. Why do you think you chose your answer to the first question?

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds OK, if you want to hold your cards up– 3, 2, 1, and show.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds Great going, guys.

Using diagnostic questions

The video above is an extract from our Introducing Assessment for Learning online course. One of the key concepts from that course is diagnostic questioning. The example in the video shows a ‘hinge point question’. This is a multiple choice question where each answer option can be used to diagnose the level of understanding and student thinking in the class, to identify common misconceptions.

By the judicious use of questions as ‘hinge points’ in a lesson, teachers can infer whether to move on with the plan, or continue to address a specific learning need. Students can show their responses on mini-whiteboards, ABCDE cards, or use technology such as Plickers.


What are the challenges of incorporating diagnostic questions like this into your scheme of learning?

What would the benefits be of this approach?

To find out more about this type of questioning, see Week 2 of the Introducing Assessment for Learning course.

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This video is from the free online course:

Curriculum Design for Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre

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