The process of historical investigation
Chapter 5 Assessment
5.4 Internal Assessment
This section presents the guiding principles that can be used as the basis for designing the internal assessment and some common assessment practices for History for use in schools.
Some of these principles are common to both internal and public assessment.
5.4.1 Guiding principles
Internal assessment practices should be aligned with curriculum planning, teaching progression, student abilities and local school contexts. The information collected will help to motivate, promote and monitor student learning, and will also help teachers to find ways of promoting more effective learning and teaching.
(a) Alignment with the learning objectives
A range of assessment practices should be used to assess the achievement of different learning objectives for whole-person development. These include the ability to master knowledge/concepts, understand and interpret values and viewpoints, and make use of different historical sources. The weighting given to different areas in assessment should be discussed and agreed among teachers. The assessment purposes and criteria should also be made known to students so that they have a full understanding of what is expected of them.
(b) Catering for the range of student ability
Assessment practices incorporating different levels of difficulty and in diverse modes should be used to cater for students with different aptitudes and abilities. This helps to ensure that the
more able students are challenged to develop their full potential and the less able ones are encouraged to sustain their interest and succeed in learning.
(c) Tracking progress over time
As internal assessment should not be a one-off exercise, schools are encouraged to use practices that can track learning progress over time (e.g. portfolios). Assessment practices of this kind allow students to set their own incremental targets and manage their own pace of learning, which will have a positive impact on their commitment to learning.
(d) Timely and encouraging feedback
Teachers should provide timely and encouraging feedback through a variety of means, such as constructive verbal comments during classroom activities and written remarks on assignments. Such feedback helps students sustain their momentum in learning, and identify their strengths and weaknesses.
(e) Making reference to the school’s context
As learning is more meaningful when the content or process is linked to a setting which is familiar to students, schools are encouraged to design assessment tasks that make reference to the school’s own context (e.g. its location, relationship with the community, and mission).
This strategy is particularly relevant to the section on Hong Kong history as the district in which a school is located can provide useful clues to some aspects of Hong Kong’s modernisation and transformation.
(f) Making reference to current progress in student learning
Internal assessment tasks should be designed with reference to students’ current progress, as this helps to overcome obstacles that may have a cumulative negative impact on learning.
Teachers should be mindful in particular of concepts and skills which form the basis for further development in learning.
(g) Feedback from peers and from the students themselves
In addition to giving their own feedback, teachers should also provide opportunities for peer assessment and self-assessment in student learning. The former enables students to learn among themselves, and the latter promotes reflective thinking which is vital for students’
(h) Appropriate use of assessment information to provide feedback
Internal assessment provides a rich source of data for providing evidence-based feedback on learning in a formative manner.
5.4.2 Internal assessment practices
A range of assessment practices, such as open book tests, oral questioning, self-assessment, and internal tests and examinations should be used to promote the attainment of the various learning outcomes. However, teachers should note that these practices should be an integral part of learning and teaching, not “add-on” activities.
Open book tests
Open book tests, in which students have access to the materials, are suitable for subjects such as History that make use of a wide range of printed materials and emphasise the ability to synthesise data from various sources and generate new knowledge by integrating new information into existing knowledge.
When designing open book tests, teachers should avoid questions that simply require copying information from the reference materials provided; instead, they may, for example, invite discussion on how far such materials are valid and how they can be integrated with students’
Oral questioning need not be seen as a test to be used in language subjects only. Asking carefully designed open-ended questions is a key to effective oral questioning in History.
Open-ended questions invite extended responses and the use of higher-order thinking skills.
For example, when discussing modernisation efforts in the Maoist period, questions such as the following may be asked:
What is your impression of the Maoist period?
Stimulates motivation by encouraging expression of personal views
What were the successes and
challenges of the communist regime in that period?
Promotes rational analysis from a variety of perspectives
What modernisation attempts were made at that time?
Requires the provision of evidence for the analysis
How will you evaluate such attempts? Involves discussion of the validity of the evidence
To what extent does the historical reality differ from your impression of that period?
Expansion/correction of own knowledge
The above scenario shows that open-ended questions, when appropriately designed, can be a powerful tool for assessing skills such as understanding of historical concepts, finding relevant historical evidence, analysing historical data, and differentiating between facts and opinions. Students’ responses to the questions will reflect their strengths and weaknesses in specific areas of knowledge and skills – and this provides useful information for teachers and students about their current standard of work, and for teachers about formulating new strategies to enhance student performance.
History involves a wide variety of skills, ranging from lower-order ones such as understanding important historical facts to higher-order ones such as interpreting historical sources and formulating arguments. Teachers should encourage students to evaluate their own work, and reflect on their learning processes at regular intervals, in order to plan improvements.
To facilitate students’ self assessment, teachers should explain to students the assessment criteria that they employ in assessing students’ work, so that students can apply these to their own work. They will then understand what they have accomplished, what level they are in and how they can improve their work.
Internal tests and examinations
Tests and examinations provide systematic evidence of student performance. In designing questions, teachers should strike a balance between assessing knowledge and skills, and in covering the themes stipulated in this Guide. A range of question types should be used for tests and examinations. Essay-type questions should be sharply focused and designed in such
a way as to elicit thought. Data-based questions should test students’ ability to use and synthesise different kinds of sources and apply facts and skills they have learned to analyse unseen sources and scenarios. Questions in this section should range in difficulty level to accommodate students of varying ability.
A list of question words is included in Table 5.1 for teachers’ reference. It is not unusual that some question words are supposed to test lower-level skills, while others higher. However, in reality, question words can have varying levels of demand. For instance, in data-based questions, the word “identify” may involve the rather straightforward task of drawing relevant information from given sources; but in essay-type questions, it may demand the more sophisticated skill of synthesising/redefining known facts using new criteria indicated in the question.
Skills Relevant Question Words
1. Identifying Conclude
Define Describe Identify
In what ways/How …?
List State Suggest Trace
2. Explaining Account for
Analyse Discuss Elaborate Examine Explain Why …?
3. Comparing Compare / Contrast / Compare and contrast What are/ Identify the similarities and differences
4. Assessing Comment on
How far do you agree …?
How successful / effective …?
Is it fair / justified / biased …?
To what extent …?
Table 5.1 Question words
Tests and examinations should not be used simply for ranking student performance. They can be used for formative purposes as well. Teachers should enable students to review their test/examination performance, identify areas for possible improvement, and work out ways to enhance their knowledge and skills.