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Time: approximately two hours

This module is intended to help teachers reflect on the nature and causes of students’ mistakes and to consider ways in which they might use them constructively to promote learning. This process, which involves teachers in interpreting students’ responses to better understand the cause of students’ errors, is fundamental to formative assessment because the decisions teachers make about their teaching are based on their students’ current understandings.

It is suggested that three discussion activities take place:

  • Assessing students’ responses to diagnostic questions.
    This involves examining some genuine student responses and trying to identify the thinking that is behind the errors.
  • Diagnosing the causes of errors.
    This involves thinking about various mistakes and the local generalisations that often cause them.
  • Responding to errors and misconceptions.
    This involves considering research advice on the best way to respond to mistakes and errors. 

Note that there are two different sets of handouts; one for teachers of science and one for teachers of mathematics.

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Handouts for science teachers
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Click below to access another module:

Formative assessment in Science and
Mathematics Education (FaSMEd)
The Research Centre for Learning and Teaching
Newcastle University