The Research Hub

Subject Knowledge Quizzes and How to Make Them Effective

Tanzela Ali explores the use of subject knowledge quizzes in her lessons, explaining why they are important and how they can be done effectively.

Research Focus

Do regular knowledge quizzes in lessons help students make progress?

Up to 40% of the Science GCSE exam questions need pupils to recall key information as well as selecting and showing an understanding of knowledge. I want to find out the best way to allow students access to this 40% and gain all the knowledge they have to learn. We teach students a vast amount of knowledge but how do we ensure that they can recall this knowledge?

Methodology

I carried out this research with a Year 11 Additional Science group with targets ranging from A* to B. I chose this class as my research group because the focus with exam groups becomes about applying knowledge, but if they do not have this knowledge in the first place then they cannot apply it. I first tried 10 knowledge questions based on the previous lesson. Students then read out their scores for me to record in a spread sheet. I had not told students this, but those that achieved 80% or less stayed behind after the lesson for intervention. The Education Endowment Foundation has found that a high level of success, at least 80%, should be required before students can move onto learn new knowledge. I also tried knowledge quizzes at the end of the lesson testing students’ knowledge of what had been learnt that lesson. Instead of new knowledge questions, I interspersed questions that I had used in previous quizzes with new questions. I kept the format of the knowledge quizzes the same every lesson but changed the time at which the quiz took place; as a starter, mid-point and end of the lesson. I aimed to find out the best time of the lesson to use a knowledge quiz and what am I trying to achieve with them; are students able to retain knowledge from one lesson to the other or have they learnt the knowledge in that lesson?


Findings

I found that a knowledge quiz at the start of the lesson worked the best as it tested students’ knowledge from the previous lesson and worked well to focus the students to the learning that was taking place that lesson. I thoroughly enjoyed trying different ways in which to use knowledge quizzes and had not realised that the format and time of these in the lesson could have a massive impact on students’ focus and remembering key information. Students – of varying abilities – were asked for their opinions about the knowledge quizzes. Students were more willing to share when they did not like some of the knowledge quiz trials than when they did! Students said that these quizzes increased their confidence in learning the vast amount of content that we give them every lesson. It allowed the knowledge to be broken down to key facts and helped them when applying their knowledge.


How this can impact the progress made by pupils in HTSA Schools

We work with students to help them apply their skills, knowledge and understanding to different contexts to help them answer the exam questions. If students do not have the knowledge in the first place that we have taught them then they cannot access this. We use a range of assessment for learning strategies in our lesson and these seem to be getting more intricate and complicated. These very simple questions testing students’ knowledge, which took no time at all to plan, were a quick and easy way to assess students.


What can we learn from this research?

· Have 10 questions on the board at the start of the lesson to test students on the key knowledge from last lesson

· Go through the answers and keep a record of students’ scores

· Keep those students who achieve less than 80% behind - this allowed early intervention and maintained clear focus during and in between lessons

How has this action research impacted your teaching practice?

This research has made me realise that something so quick and simple can have an effect on students’ attitude to learning. In between lessons, more students were taking their class books home to review their work ready for the next lesson’s knowledge quiz. It has allowed me to intervene with those not doing this on a regular basis and address any misconceptions they have quickly.

Having done this for a term, there would be a number of things I would do differently with my other classes. I would inform students of the success criteria straight away. The first time I kept those behind that achieved less than 80% was seen as a punishment or ‘detention’ which was not my aim. I am still trialing different ways in retesting those that I intervene with - do they do the same test again or a different one? When I tried the quiz at the end of the lesson, students found this repetitive as they had been learning about it all lesson and saw it as more of the same thing. Therefore, I would not recommend a knowledge quiz as an assessment for learning opportunity as a plenary. Students also found the quizzes where there were questions they have done before repetitive as either they had got them right the first time or had stayed behind to go through them again. However, I do think repetition is a good thing but perhaps leaving more of a gap when using questions again. I also trialled the quiz half way through the lesson which did not work as well and more students achieved less than 80% than had done previously. Students said that they found the change in task difficult as opposed to the content of the quiz being more challenging. This is an aspect that I shall be trialling further.


References:

Education Endowment Foundation – Teacher Toolkit, Mastery Learning https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/resources/teaching-learning-toolkit/mastery-learning

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