7 Ways to Check for Understanding

Decorative: "Check for understanding" with a large check mark beside the words


"Checking for Understanding" (online article) outlines 7 "formative assessment strategies that give teachers a better way to gauge the level of understanding within a class" -- quick and easy ways to "see who gets it, who needs more practice, and who has no clue" -- "all of which have the added benefit of increasing student engagement."

1. Index cards

  • "Have students prepare index cards of answer choices."
  • "[T]he teacher can read a problem and then students hold up the appropriate card associated with the correct [response]."

2. "Real-time student response applications"

  • "Students ... use their [devices] ... to quickly answer prepared questions about the concept that’s being taught."
  • "The chosen technology then collects and displays answers in real-time so that the instructor can analyze and assess student learning."

3. "Four corners"

  • "[Set] up answers to prompts in four corners of the room" and ask and a (judgement) question.
  • "Students physically move to the corner with their chosen answer, but then must justify their response to fellow students in the class."

4. "On the line"

  • "[E]stablis[h] an imaginary line that spans the room, ... mak[e] a series of statements and [have] students decide if they agree, disagree, or are neutral."
  • "Students ... to the side of the room or point on the line according to their agreement or preference." 

5. "Admit/exit slips"

  • Before class, "ask students to write a sentence describing something they know about the topic about to be covered in class ... on the 'admit side' of the ticket."
  • After class, "ask students to write down a summary of the topic or something about it they want clarified ... on the 'exit side' of the ticket."
  • This shows "prior knowledge, ... level of understanding after the lesson, and ... what needs to be retaught."

6. "Jumbled summary"

  • "Write key words or phrases from an explanation or introduction in random order on the board."
  • "After the material has been presented..., ask pairs of students to ... put [the terms] in a logical sequence as a knowledge check."
  • "This ... works well with math processes, a sequence of historical events, events in a piece of literature, or a series of observations/analysis in a scientific lab."

7. "Art as a metaphor"

  • "[P]rovid[e] a variety of artwork, photographs, images, or other symbolic representations" and have "[s]tudents choose a visual image to compare to a specific concept."
  • A student might use a lighthouse to "represen[t] the teaching/learning process, or how the lighthouse operates like a human cell, a system, a historical concept, etc."
  • These understandings can become writing assignments, presentations, or discussion starters.

Hurlbut, Amanda. "Checking for Understanding." Faculty Focus Premium 8 June 2018.

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