This is a great idea to get students to think more creatively about which factors are the most important to cover in their written work. I think I originally came across at a session by @MrsThorne at the SHP Conference (who informs me that the slide originally came from @JiveSpin – we’re a professionally incestuous lot, us history teachers…)

The way it works is to provide students with the key factors which answer a key question (or, even better, get the students themselves to identify them). List these on the board, and ask students to vote for their favourite three. Add up the votes for each factor and write these alongside them.

The example below is a starting point for an essay-planning session on the question “Why was Mussolini able to rise to power in Italy?”:


Then, students have a limited ‘budget’ to purchase five factors they are going to cover in their written piece. In other words, a factor which gained votes from 10 people might ‘cost’ £10, whereas a factor which gained only a couple of votes ‘costs’ £2.

The clever result of this is that students are forced to cover a wider range of factors rather than simply cover the most popular and the most obvious. If you make the ‘budget’ correspond to the ‘price’ of the most popular three items in the list, this will mean that students will not be able to use more than two of the most popular factors and will then have to consider using some of the more obscure factors.

Taking it further

The ‘Factor Auction’ approach could be combined with the ‘Takeaway Homework’ approach, as per this idea by @ryandal.

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