Here’s a really simple test for any task that we put before students:
Am I asking students to think or just remember?
It sounds silly, but the more I consider it, the more interesting this distinction gets. How often are kids presented with tasks that force them to think rather than just remember information?
On a spectrum of pure remembering to hard thinking, how would you rank those tasks? Why?
- Is this an igneous or sedimentary rock?
- Explain why George Washington was a great president.
- Multiply 125 × 73.
- What is the theme of Hamlet?
- I have 40 students and 12 busses, how many students go on each bus?
- Which character in this story is the bravest?
- Compare and contrast Islam and Judaism.
- Which of the Greek city-states was most powerful?
- What is the difference between a need and a want?
- What is the role of a consumer in an ecosystem?
Before you move on, look at the examples you think require the most thinking. Consider: is there any way a student might complete what looks like a “thinking” task by relying mostly on memory?
I think this question is trickier than it looks.