Check for academic understanding [E-3]

Illustrations are grouped by the proficiency that they best bring to life.

We would like to communicate our deep appreciation to these teachers who are allowing us to learn from their experiences.

Explanation

Sometimes we use rhetorical questions in class because we want to check student understanding but aren’t really sure how to do it. Unless students are asked to respond to a high-quality question and explain their thoughts, however, we won’t know what they actually have learned. Students probably won’t be able to accurately self-assess their understanding, and if they are confused, they will likely feel hesitant to voluntarily admit this to the whole class.

Solution

To check for student understanding effectively, use purposeful, well-crafted questions that probe student understanding. Doing this will allow you to truly see what students understand and where they are still struggling. Read about different types of questions that can be used as effective checks for understanding and view examples of scaffolded questions that will tell you the extent of student understanding.

Explanation

We may develop a habit of only calling on raised hands because we are excited that students are eager to participate or don’t want to embarrass students who don’t seem to know the answer. When we do this, though, we may not necessarily get an accurate read on the class’ collective understanding.

Solution

Be strategic in who you select to answer your questions. Make sure to target your questions at students from different academic levels, or even better, use checks for understanding that require the whole class to respond (whiteboards, thumbs up/down) and allow you to see what everyone’s thinking at the same time. Read more about different methods for selecting student responses.

Explanation

We may be tempted to settle with getting one correct answer before moving on because we are excited that at least one student understands and want to make sure that we get through the rest of our lesson. If we don’t check the understanding of a variety of people, we won’t really know what the whole class understands, and we may discourage students from participating.

Solution

Be strategic in who you select to answer your questions. Make sure to target your questions at students from different academic levels, or even better, use checks for understanding that require the whole class to respond (whiteboards, thumbs up/down) and allow you to see what everyone’s thinking at the same time. Read more about different methods for selecting student responses. If you are worried about not having enough time in your lesson, visit the E-3 FAQ page for tips on how to check for understanding while maintaining the pace of your instruction.

Explanation

Sometimes we might feel insecure that students aren’t getting what we’re trying to teach, because we are trying to do our best but don’t feel confident in our abilities. It is important to realize that the only way we’ll know what our students are thinking is by engaging them with questions. It’s our job to figure out what exactly students know and are struggling with, and we can’t assume anything about student learning unless we actually dig in and test it!

Solution

Always check for understanding – it is the only way to know for sure about what students know. Once you get the truth about student learning, you can adjust your approach and address what’s holding kids back from learning. Plus, once you ask questions, you may be surprised to find that some students know more than you thought! If your fear comes from not really knowing how to ask good questions, read about how to write questions that will probe student understanding

Explanation

Sometimes we only ask one question and then move on without following up to determine the extent of learning or the cause of misunderstanding. This may happen because we’re not sure how to probe student understanding or we're worried that we don’t have enough time in our lesson to ask follow-up questions.

Solution

To follow up with students who give a correct answer, push their thinking further by asking questions at a higher cognitive level. If students don’t understand, break down the question into smaller, simpler pieces to see what causing the misunderstanding. You can also have other students assess/reflect on the answers of their peers, and return to confused students later to see if they understand (after you or a classmate explains the idea). Read more about to respond to correct and incorrect answers. If you are worried about not having enough time in your lesson, visit the E-3 FAQ page for tips on how to check for understanding while maintaining the pace of your lesson.