Direct Instruction in Science (3)

Before COVID hit we had reached the point where we were starting to think about how we could assess the effectiveness of the ‘faultless communication’ resources. We had structured our disciplined inquiry so that we could make comparisons between control and test groups. This worked for us because our Year 7 groups are split into two parallel bands, each complete the same assessment and we also have common staff across the two halves.

When devising the end of phase assessment I needed to think of a way that I could create questions which assessed whether the content was recalled and applied better with or without the use of the DI examples. Here are some examples of my first attempts at writing these types of questions. I have tried to explain what I would assess through each question and what I would hope to see in terms of an answer from a student from each of the test and control groups. Due to lockdown we have not yet finished teaching so therefore these are just a first go and will inform future assessments for if/when we return.

All students have been taught about terminal velocity and how to interpret free body diagrams and all students saw this diagram in our year 7 literacy booklet. However, the test group were shown a large range of examples of where terminal velocity occurred. They also were taught using a script which followed the wording principle and clearly outlined what was happening at each stage of this diagram. This question tries to unpick whether the students realized that the person reaches terminal velocity twice and how this can be shown on a free body diagram. I would hope that the strict script would limit the parachute misconception here and mean that they are able to see that C and F are correct.


Students often struggle with the idea of concentration, especially when associated with diffusion and osmosis. This is especially true for middle and lower ability groups. Just like the other example, all students have covered diffusion and the simple aspects of osmosis (including self-quizzing the definition and completing lots of SLOP questions). However, only the test group were able to see these two beakers juxtaposed like this and with a clear concise explanation. Hopefully this question would enable particular analysis for the differences between the high, middle and lower ability test groups.

My final example is trying to assess the effectiveness of the written examples. Whilst all students covered separating techniques, only the test group were explicitly taught about examples of processes. A common misconception is the difference between boiling and evaporation too. So this question aims to assess how effective the explicit teaching of process was and also whether the examples and non-examples help students to identify the difference between boiling and evaporating.

Again, these are very much a first attempt and have not been used yet. Looking forward, once school is back to some type of ‘normal’ we will be able to reflect on these questions as a group, learn from any feedback received and then roll them out to our groups.

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