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Elaborate Interrogation

This post has been inspired after reading Sean Allison’s blog Supporting Learning Through Effective Revision Techniques.

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How many times have you spoken to students as they leave an exam hall enquiring as to how it went to be greeted with the reply, “You didn’t teach me half the stuff in the exam”? Yet when August comes the outcome that student achieves is better than the post exam conversation might have suggested?  I might argue that a student in this position has developed an ability (perhaps without realising!) to apply skills effectively and used these skills to develop an effective set of responses.

As teachers I think that we are always on the lookout for new ways of supporting and improving student learning and progress.  However at this time of year many of us revert back to tried and tested techniques that we have used over the years but not always in the most discerning way.  I have recently conducted a poll amongst the different subjects and the top strategies they use to support exam success.

Common elements included:

  • The use of past papers
  • Walking talking mocks
  • Modelling and reviewing exemplar answers

The element in Sean’s blog about Elaborate Interrogation really struck a chord with me.  It is clear if you look at Bloom’s or Solo Taxonomy that as students are able to engage with subject matter on an increasingly complex level a necessary part of them being able to achieve that is a mastery of the more basic facts along the way.  Elaborate Interrogation is the process of encouraging students to ask “why?

This afternoon I was fortunate enough to hear Chris Moyse speak (and Mary Myatt!) at the West Sussex Deputies Network. Although he was talking about an unrelated topic he used the old adage,

“If you do what you have always done you will get what you have always got!”

A few hours later and a little bit of thinking has suddenly caused me to join the dots….

“What might happen if we were to make greater use of Elaborate Interrogation as a revision technique this year?”

We could be considering presenting revision as a series of key questions that ensure syllabus coverage that students could reflect on and subsequently answer.  As they develop the ability to answer these deeper questions their thought processes should become more complex and naturally cover a wider range of related content, making and reinforcing links along the way.

Some possible examples from PE:

  • Why might an athlete complete both continuous and interval trying when trying improve endurance?
  • Why might the use of technology in sport be leading to improved athletic performances?
  • Doping in sport has been an increasingly contentious issue over the last 25 years. Why?
  • Why might media, sponsorship and sport have become inextricably linked in the twenty first century?

If students were encouraged to complete mind maps to create a knowledge web that allowed them answer these bigger questions they could prove to be really useful revision tools.

The fantastic Hilary Glentworth has a great technique for getting students to develop depth in their answers when answering questions in Geography; the “So what?” technique.  Quite simply students keep asking themselves “So what?“, “So what?“,”So what?” Each time they answer it builds more depth, this combined with an initial deep question to promote Elaborate Interrogation could be dynamite!

I think this approach could have a really powerful impact….. more info to follow.



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