What are hinge questions?

To move on, briefly recap, or completely reteach? The most important decision a teacher makes on a regular basis. Would you agree?

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How about these two ideas…

“If we spend time generating high quality questions we can potentially administer, assess and take remedial action regarding a whole class in a matter of minutes, without generating a pile of marking.”

“Sharing high quality questions across different schools, authorities, cultures, even languages may be the most significant thing we can do to improve the quality of student learning.”

When I read these two passages in Dylan Wiliam’s recent book, Embedded Formative Assessment I thought this was an interesting idea but from a practical point of view, almost impossible. Then he outlined the rationale behind hinge questions and I was hooked.

What are hinge questions?

On his reflective blog, history teacher Harry Fletcher-Wood describes a hinge question as a technique which allows the teacher to check for understanding at a ‘hinge-point’ in a learning sequence, because of two inter-linked meanings:

1) It is the point where you move from one key idea/activity/point on to another.
2) Understanding the content before the hinge is a prerequisite for the next phase of learning.

The core concept behind posing hinge questions is that they allow you to gather information on what all students are thinking so you can then make adjustments or timely interventions which offer an opportunity to address learners inevitable unintended misconceptions.

I find hinge questions quite challenging to create before I teach a particular part of a learning sequence. Despite my best pre-emptive efforts, I’m often surprised by the misconceptions some students experience. However, designing an effective hinge question requires you to have a clear understanding of both your learning intention(s) and the potential misconceptions that students might experience.

How do you create an effective hinge question?

(1)    Focus on the critical aspects of learning intentions as opposed to ideas that are not essential for further progression.

(2)    It is preferable to be able to obtain the information from all students immediately. Ideally students should respond within one minute and teachers be able to view and interpret responses within thirty seconds. It is a quick check on understanding, rather than a new piece of work.

(3)    There should be ample time for you to respond to the information presented to you. This could be at the start of the lesson, with specific tasks to follow. Or in the middle of the lesson to modify or clarify an emerging understanding or at the end of a lesson, to help inform you of what to do in the next lesson.

(4)     Ideally, it must be impossible to reach correct answers using an incorrect thought process (that is MUCH easier said, than done!)

In the next post I’ll share some of the hinge questions we have generated to date and the learning intentions that sit beneath them.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “What are hinge questions?

  1. Pingback: TeachMeet Leicester Digital Literacy #TMDL14 | LCC SchoolTech

  2. Pingback: TeachMeet Leicester Digital Literacy #TMDL14 | DigiLit Leicester

  3. Pingback: Hinge Questions at #TMC14 [Hinge Questions] | Maths is Not a Spectator Sport

  4. Stephen Schwab.

    Great read.

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