Developing Evaluation: 1. Plus, Minus, Interesting.

I’ve recently been looking through some old copies of Social Science Teacher (there was nothing on tv) at a couple of exercises developed by Jill Swale to help students develop their evaluation techniques – and while I’ll post something about a much more elaborate way to encourage this exam skill at some point soon, the first is really just a simplified recap of something I’ve written about before: Swale’s ideas about how it can be useful to integrate something like de Bono’s “Thinking Hats” into both wider class discussions and shorter evaluation exercises.

Click to download a selection of possible answer templates.

It’s a technique you can use to encourage student evaluation at whatever point that’s appropriate in a lesson by simply posing a question that gets your students thinking about three things:

1. What would be the plus points (and to whom would they be advantageous)?

2. What would be the minus points (and to whom would they be disadvantageous)?

3. What would be some interesting questions to which a sociologist might want answers?

In the original post the questions were all based around crime and deviance but it is, of course, possible to develop relatively simple, but probing, questions on almost any topic you like. Swale, for example, provides the following question on the sociology of education:

Imagine that the tripartite system was reintroduced, with the 11+ exam and the three types of schools intended in 1944 (including plenty of technical schools which were rarely built)”.


Divide the class into small groups and get each to choose someone to record the groups’ suggestions / answers to the questions. This person can, of course, contribute to the discussion.

Spend 3 – 5 minutes considering each of the:

  • plus points.
  • minus points
  • interesting points
  • Once all points have been covered in the groups they can be brought together for a whole-class plenary (which can, if you want, lead into something like a written homework essay).

    Although the examples used here are sociological there’s nothing to stop psychology teachers adapting the technique to their subject.

    Similarly, although this was originally designed as a classroom exercise it’s actually one that could be easily-adapted to online sessions…

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