I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about improving both my teaching and my students’ learning…the sequel!
There is no universal panacea to cure all teaching and learning ills. I find that teachers will sometimes adopt any new teaching tip which promises instant improvement of their students’ learning. I remember five years ago watching the following recording of Dylan Wiliam espousing the effectiveness of tasking students to design their own test questions. The next morning I walked the school and found three different teachers following Wiliam’s advice…with no improvement in learning whatsoever because the students had not been taught the complexities of constructing questions.
To construct test questions requires a deep understanding of how questions are structured. Back in October I posted a piece on how I had changed the way I taught the OCR Economics AS level, which you can find here. My students’ progress has been significantly better than their predecessors and I showed in that post how teaching them explicitly how questions are designed has been central in improving their understanding of both the subject content and how to answer examination questions. Today I sprung upon them the task of taking this case study based upon a BBC website article and designing a full Unit 1 examination paper.
Dylan Wiliam was right about the efficacy of asking students to construct test questions. If you compare the students’ paper with the real thing, it reveals both their clear understanding of the shape of the content of the OCR AS Economics Unit 1 and how the questions are constructed. Their homework for Thursday is to construct the mark scheme, the final piece of this term’s learning jigsaw. Watch this space…