Knowledge, Understanding, Evaluation
Our unique selling point (USP) is that we construct our material around the National Curriculum requirements for Knowledge, Understanding and Evaluation. Questions are data tagged by the system to identify which of these groups they belong to so that questions from just one of these areas can be isolated if need be.
Knowledge Questions are easy (e.g. How many wheels does a bicycle have?). It is the understanding and evaluation ones which can be tricky to write. Remember, always construct an aim statement first. What are you trying to test?
Imagine you are talking one-to-one with a student, and you want to know if he understands how a bicycle works. What might he say, spontaneously in conversation, that would convince you he really did understand?
How about It's got two wheels, pedals, and a chain? - Perfectly correct, but scarcely indicative of understanding.
Try The pedals make it go. - Hmm...linguistically, yes, that's understanding. But it's on a six year-old's level; I wouldn't accept it from a teenager.
Then The pedals drive the wheel through the chain - Yes! Clearly this person has a mental model of the functioning of a bicycle. Contrast the verb to drive with to go in the previous example. It's more specific. The preposition through indicates that he understands how two concepts are connected.
How do we translate this into multiple-choice format? Start by getting clear exactly what it is you want to assess. My aim statement will be I want to know whether students correctly understand how the drive train of a bicycle works. The foils should all be written as statements of understanding about the drive train.
Which of these correctly describes the drive train of a bicycle?
- The pedals drive the wheel through the chain (correct)
- The pedals drive the back wheel, and the front wheel steers
- The wheel drives the pedals through the chain
- The chain makes the pedals and the wheel go round
Note in passing that my aim statement contains the question how?, surely the key word for a U question, even though the stem of the question does not.
So, to summarise, to demonstrate understanding, a student should be able to
- answer how questions
- correctly describe relationships
- use or correctly recognise specific verbs rather than general ones
- use or correctly recognise appropriate prepositions and conjunctions.
Continuing the cycling theme, imagine you are talking one-to-one with a student, and you want to know if he can evaluate why one should not ride on the pavement. What might he say, spontaneously in conversation, that would convince you he really had evaluated the issue?
You shouldn't ride a bike on the pavement. - He's stated a rule, but failed to justify it.
You shouldn't ride a bike on the pavement because it's bad. - Linguistically, he's stated a reason, but it's a tautology.
You shouldn't ride a bike on the pavement because it's dangerous to pedestrians. - This we like. He's stated a consequence.
You shouldn't ride a bike on the pavement because it's against the Highway Code. - We like this too, because he's cited authority. If he'd have just said the rules it would have been tautological again.
Riding on the road is better, because the road is smoother. - A completely different argument, but equally evaluative. He's compared and contrasted.
You shouldn't ride a bike on the pavement, my mate did it and hit a pedestrian. - Also good; he's cited evidence. He's also generalised - not always a good thing, but certainly evaluative.
This last brings me to the sting in the tail of evaluation. What if he'd said You should ride on the pavement because it's safer than the road. - Evaluative thinking doesn't lend itself to single right answers and this can conflict sometimes with the right/wrong nature of multiple choice.
Nonetheless, with a clear aim statement we can do a lot. My aim statement will be I want to know whether students can evaluate the dangers of riding on the pavement from an ethical standpoint. Note that just by saying that, I've leant towards an evaluation of consequences. The foils will all be written as evaluative statements.
You should not ride a bicycle on the pavement, because
- you might hit, and hurt, pedestrians (correct)
- pedestrians might yell at you
- you might hit a lamppost and hurt yourself
- only young children would do it, so you'd look uncool
Once again I've constructed the distractors to be as close as possible to the key. The only significant difference is the one thing I am testing for. Typically for a question testing evaluation, all the foils are correct, but the one we are after demonstrates a perception of the ethical issues involved in pavement-cycling.
So, to summarise, to demonstrate evaluation, a student might
- use modal verbs ( could, should, ought, might, etc)
- enumerate consequences (or causes)
- cite authority (moral, legal, spiritual)
- compare or contrast
- cite evidence
- generalise from examples.