Teaching and learning tricky topics
Teaching and learning tricky topics

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Teaching and learning tricky topics

2.2 Wording your question

Below are six top tips for wording questions:

  1. When designing questions consider if each question has the same meaning for everyone. Using a term from students’ learning is important but when introducing new language be careful that these terms are clearly understood or explained. Without this your students may simply not understood an additional term you used rather than the concept in the learning itself. Providing definitions or examples is a useful way to overcome these problems.
  2. Keep quiz questions as short and simple as possible. This will increase the likelihood that the quiz will be understood and that the responses are the students’ real understanding of that concept without additional barriers to them revealing their understanding.
  3. Make sure that questions are not complicated by double negatives or loaded words which make it harder for the student to find an answer even if they do understand the concept for example: ‘which ..... did you not consider ?’).
  4. Although you maybe including more than one stumbling blocks in a question try not to ask more than one question in the same question. For example: ‘How to respond to … and …?’).
  5. Try not to ask a question that requires that students interpret your meaning of a term (e.g. ‘Does ….. require regular input?’ What is meant by the concept ‘regular input’, is it once a day or once a week?). Providing a range within which to choose a response will help to clarify these choices.
  6. Try not to include responses that are obviously socially undesirable or positively desirable and thus make the response obviously wrong or right such as positive or negative terms connected to the concept. For example words like good, accurate, formulated etc. encourage the student to look for these responses rather than the content that the answer is giving.

Here is a very simple example of a question for the Moles tricky topic (designed purely to show how it links to the stumbling blocks and problem examples).

Question 1: What is Avagadro’s Constant?

  • 6.02 × 1023 (correct answer)
  • 6.02 × 1022
  • 6.00 × 1023
  • 602 × 1023

Check back to Week 2 and see how this links to the stumbling blocks and problem examples.

It links as follows:

  • stumbling blocks: working with equations, purpose of moles
  • problem example: choosing the correct equation
  • distiller categories: terminology, lack of linked concepts

Now complete Activity 1 where you will create a short quiz which you can use to partially evaluate the success of the intervention you designed in Week 6 Activity 2.

Activity 1 Create a quiz for your tricky topic

Timing: Allow approximately 40 minutes

Using the structure of your tricky topic you created in Activity 5 of Week 3, create at least two questions for each of your stumbling blocks. Remember one question can cover two stumbling blocks but you must have at least one question for each individual stumbling block.

Feel free to use whatever quiz system you have in your school/education establishment or any online system. If you wish, you can simply write them in a word document.

To start off with, write simple multiple choice questions, similar to the moles question above, and similar to some that you have been answering at the end of each week in this course.

These can be used to evaluate the intervention you designed in Activity 2, Week 6.


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