Following the QCA scheme of work on the French Revolution (QCA Unit 10), I developed a critical skills challenge which asks the students to produce a series of information cards which explain whether all the French revolutionaries wanted the same thing. The mixed-ability Year 8 group were provided with a Challenge document, which set out the rules for the task and explained what was expected. Students had only one hour to produce the cards, which meant that they had to think about the task and how to complete the work within the timescale. The Challenge document rules included the requirement that all cards must be "stand-alone", ie did not need someone to explain them. Instructions for the form of the cards were that the display "must inform the audience of the historical background to the French Revolution; be easy to understand; use appropriate language; and have a clear format". Requirements for content were: "Must show chronological impact of French Revolution over time; must include: sans culottes, counter-revolutionaries, liberty bonnet, definitions of Jacobins and Girondins; must include pictures, drawings and text."
Students worked in groups of four and were allowed free access to materials. I then circulated the room, monitoring progress and assessing the groups' collaborative and leadership skills. I wrote many Post-it notes which gave individual feedback on the students' roles or work, eg "I like the way you have organised the work within this group" or "You have worked really hard to produce an excellent chronological outline, well done."
Students' work was handed in at the end of the lesson and was assessed by the other groups, using a printed assessment sheet covering all the requirements in the Challenge document, with a tick box and a space for comments. I allowed 10 minutes for each group to assess another group's work. Groups were then given about 10 minutes to read the different assessments of their work. To add to the sense of occasion, I added up all the ticks in columns and announced a winner, though to be honest, they are all winners for achieving the CS Challenge.