A Question of Clarity

If I learned one thing during my MAT program, it is that in order to fairly and accurately assess student learning, you have to be sure that the questions you ask mean what you think they mean. You have to make sure that your students understand your questions before you can really judge the accuracy of their answers.

This became a problem when I asked my students to “analyze” current events articles, or primary source documents. I was expecting them to look at the material and really engage with it: tell me what it taught them, how they were connecting it to our topic of conversation. Instead what I usually received was a simple description of the article or primary source; a vague re-statement of what I already gave them.

For those of you who subscribe to Bloom’s Taxonomy (who doesn’t?), you know that re-stating facts is relatively low on the hierarchy of higher thinking. This problem got me thinking: I need a way to help communicate to my students that I want them to go beyond the “understanding” level, and move up to the higher rungs of Bloom’s ladder.

I think the highest two levels of the Taxonomy can be well covered in other ways, but I most often ask for analyses and application in short answer type questions or current events reports. This is where I was running into the most problems. So, after considering for a few months, I whipped up these posters in Piktochart.

Now, I think these will probably require a bit more work before they are really done, but I like that they are attractive posters communicating separate ideas. After introducing these, I can introduce questions and activities as “Conclude:” or “Analyze:” tasks, and know that students have a quick way for figuring out exactly what I mean. Also, I included sentence stems so students who feel stuck trying to answer a question have a way to springboard their thought process.

What do you think? Like what you see? Have any critiques? Good or bad, I would love to hear about it.

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