Assessment exemplar: children questioning artefacts


By Paul Flux, published 21st January 2011

Questioning can be used in assessing childrens historical skills, as this example shows.

The children were all in Year 4, and were withdrawn from their mixed Year 3/4 class for this lesson. They had covered several aspects of National Curriculum history, including over the past year the Egyptians and a local study. The school owns a large number of replica artefacts, which the children have used on several occasions. In addition, the children have become well-used to posing their own historical questions, so this type of assessment procedure fits in quite naturally with normal working practice. The children were fairly confident in using different sources of historical information. We decided not to make the assessment relate to a specific history study unit, but rather to assess the childrens general enquiry and research skills. The activity both challenged and motivated the children.

Assessment activity

We placed six replica pots on different tables. These ranged from a Saxon burial pot to a Tudor three-handled jug. The class had not worked with these pots before. We gave the children the task as a set of written instructions:

Go to the table with the pot you wish to work on. Remember, you are working on your own so it should not matter where your friend is going.
You have plenty of paper. Two pieces are for the final answers, but the rest are for drafting. Do try to use them.

Task 1 Write at least 10 questions about the pot. These can be anything you want, but the more unusual ones are often better. Draft these and when you are ready, write them out in best. You may use borders.

Task 2 Draw the pot underneath the questions or on a different piece of paper if necessary.

Task 3 Take three of your questions and answer them as well as you can. Write as much as you can for each answer. You may draft first and then write your final answers out. (Is there more than one possible answer? If so, which is the best?)

Task 4 Finally, you have been asked by the museum curator to write the label for this pot. It must be no more than four sentences. What will you write?

The assessment explained
On this occasion we assessed only tasks 1, 3 and 4, as our focus was the childrens questioning and thinking skills.

Task 1 requires the children simply to examine the artefacts and to pose questions. At this stage there is no need for the children even to consider how to answer them.

Task 3 begins the search for more advanced skills. Here the children are expected to select three of their questions to answer. This selection process itself contributes towards the assessment: the more able historians will choose open-ended questions, going beyond the more basic questions such as: What is the pot made of? Once the children have chosen three questions, they have to find the answers. For this purpose we had in the classroom a range of books to help in their research. As the pots were from different times, these books covered a wide historical timescale.

Task 4*. From the information the children discover, or infer, about their pots, they have to select the four most important elements.

At the end of activity, we gathered the whole class together and asked individual children verbally to justify the inclusion of their chosen information on their museum label.

The activity was a good one for assessing the development of the childrens historical enquiry skills. It was open-ended enough for the lower-ability children to be able to tackle it with some success, and also to challenge the high fliers.

My assessment notes on the work of two contrasting children are attached below.

Attached files: