Tips for Educators

9 Ways To Check For Student Understanding

  • Jul 28, 2022
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 9 Ways To Check For Student Understanding

In the book Inside the Black Box, authors Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black stress on how many teachers don’t ask enough questions to check for student understanding. By simply asking “Is this clear?” and then moving on — while relying on the response of a few students — they’re overlooking a huge chunk of the class that may be struggling with comprehension. As a teacher, how do you make sure all of your students are clear with what you’ve taught? Here are nine techniques to try - 

1. Maintain Interactive Notebooks

Ask your students to keep a notebook for self reflection. At the end of each class, they should draw a line in the middle of a page to divide it into two sides. The left side should be allotted for class assignments. On the right side, students can jot down what they’ve understood from the corresponding assignment. You can then regularly check their notebooks to see if they’ve properly understood a particular concept. 

2. Encourage Peer Tutoring

Divide your class into small groups of two or three. Each student can then assume the role of a tutor and teach their group what they’ve learnt from the previous lesson. Walk around the class and listen in on their conversations. This will help you understand which students have grasped the topic and who’s struggling with which concept. 

3. Provide Understanding Slips

Once you’ve wrapped up your lesson, give your students an “understanding slip.” They should write down whatever they’ve learnt from your lesson on one side of the paper, along with any questions they have. Read these slips to gauge how much progress they’ve made with each lesson.

4. Find Answers

Give your students a brief overview of what you’ll be teaching them in the upcoming lessons. Ask them to list a few questions about each topic. They can circle back to these questions during the lesson and try to find the answers while you teach. After class, ask them how many answers they were able to find during the session.

5. Summarise Lessons

The moment you’re done explaining a certain concept, have your students summarise it in their own words. They can do this via text (by writing on the whiteboard) or verbally. 

6. Use Hand Signals

Encouraging your students to actively participate with gestures and hand signals is an engaging way to figure out which students need extra attention due to lack of understanding. Tell them to rate their understanding of a topic by holding up their fingers (one finger signals confusion around the topic and five fingers signal thorough understanding). 

7. Get Responses

Add an interactive element to your lessons by giving your students small whiteboards where they can jot down an answer to questions you’ve asked them during the class. Walk around the class and read their answers to ensure everyone’s on the same page. 

8. Check For Misconceptions

Address the common misconceptions people usually have with the topic you’re covering. Read two or three misconceptions out loud and ask your students to explain why they agree or disagree with the statements. 

9. Play True Or False

Write down a mix of true and false statements on the whiteboard. As you read each statement, tell your students to clap once if it is true and put a hand on their head if it's false. 

It’s important to check for student understanding so you can give extra attention to students who need it. Don’t always leave it till the end of the class. Make it a point to conduct quick activities throughout the class to see if your students are grasping each concept well.

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