Effectiveness of assessment


Imagine you have 3 water jars, each with the capacity to hold a different, fixed amount of water. Jar A holds 21 units of water, B is capable of holding 127 units, and C can hold up to 3 units. How would you go about measuring a 100 units of water using these jars?*

This question formed the basis for Abraham Luchins’s classic experiment in which subjects were divided into two groups. The experimental group was given five practice problems, followed by 4 critical test problems. The control group did not have the five practice problems. All of the practice problems and some of the critical problems had only one possible solution (if you can’t be bothered working it out, see below.) While most of the test problems could be solved either with the solution learned in the practice rounds or with a simpler, more efficient method, one – the ‘extinction problem’ – could only be solved by generating a novel solution. The majority of the experimental subjects were anchored by their experience of the solution to the practice problems and struggled to see simpler more efficient solutions and were unable to tackle the extinction problem.

Read the article to consider the way we assess in the UK and its effectiveness


by David Didau

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