It all hinges on the question

hinges-1I had the privilege of attending PCMI earlier this summer, and the further privilege of attending a presentation by Dylan Wiliam on formative assessment.  One of the big takeaways from all of that awesome professional development, and something I have committed to as a personal teaching goal for this coming school year, is the implementation of regular hinge point questioning in my lessons.   In the ‘middle’ of the lesson (or the hinge point), the teacher poses a question which is designed to elicit evidence of understanding of the key ideas [presumably] taught thus far.  The students should be able to answer the question in 2-3 minutes, and the teacher should be able to evaluate the responses and make a decision on how to proceed in class in 30 seconds – whether to continue forward, clarify or re-teach, or remediate in some way (review a requisite skill, for example).   For further clarification or description, watch this video by the Great Dude of Formative Assessment, Dylan Wiliam.

I love this simple and brilliant idea, even though I’m uncertain of its implementation.  My classes are only 45 minutes long.  What happens if the evidence shows the students haven’t gotten the idea at all?  What if half of the students have gleaned the lesson goal?  My favorite idea from the video above is that we should design our lessons with hinges in them, rather than designing them as airport runways, building in feedback loops.  I teach in New York, and always have a Regents exam breathing down my neck.  But I know that this technique will help build better outcomes and deeper understanding for more students if consistently and intelligently used.

I committed this goal to the video archive of PCMI teacher goals (note no link shared here!), and am committing it to the InterBlag; thanks to Sam and Rachel for creating this collaborative space.


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