Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Checking for Student Understanding

The most effective way to assess student understanding is to do it while the lesson is still going on!

Asking students to fill out a questionnaire and then correcting misunderstandings during the next class period won't work because students have already moved on. 

You've got to take advantage of the moment (Teachable Moments)!

This goes far beyond just asking students to, "Put your thumb up if you understand, and down if you don't." Teachers should constantly be taking the pulse of the room in order to gauge whether or not students need additional explanations to grasp the content.

I have observed many classroom teachers across the city and found that most teachers struggle with Domain 3 of the Danielson Framework. Nine out of ten of my debrief conversations sound something like this:

ME: How did you monitor for student understanding?
TEACHER: I had the students complete the Exit Slip I created.
ME: Can I see them?
TEACHER: Sure, but I didn't go through them yet.
ME: That's ok, we'll look at it together.
TEACHER: (Takes out the student Exit Slips)
ME: Ok, let's organize these into piles: Correct, Incorrect, Some Errors (or any other way we agree on categorizing the student work samples)
ME: What patterns and/or trends do you notice?
TEACHER: More than half of the students answered incorrectly. I'm going to have to teach this lesson again tomorrow.

*The scenario above is a true account of a debrief conversation I had with a 6th grade teacher. However, I've had many conversations like the one above with teachers in Prek-8! Sometimes it's a Journal Entry that sums up the lesson, other times it's a Reflection Sheet. The above scenario could have been avoided if the teacher monitored for understanding DURING the lesson instead of waiting until the end to assess.

This is not to say that teachers should not have students complete an Exit Slip, Journal Entry, or Reflect on the lesson, but it's extremely important to understand the difference between a Formative Assessment and a Summative Assessment. 

When the cook tastes the soup - that's FORMATIVE
When the guests taste the soup - that's SUMMATIVE

It's ok to give a summative assessment at the end of the lesson, but what did you do during the lesson to ensure that the soup comes out the way you intended it to - before you serve it to your guests?

Formative assessments could simply be questions asked by the teacher to assess student understanding during the lesson. This also happens to be a very effective method of assessing student understanding during a lesson.
*This is sometimes mistaken by administrators who code it as low-level/recall questions, when in reality the purpose was NOT to challenge students cognitively but rather to assess understanding. But I'll leave that for another post =)

Please take a look at my Assessment in Instruction Packet. It includes Formative and Summative Assessments:

 You can find this in my TpT store: Assessment in Instruction