24: Checks for Understanding


Chapter 2 in Berger, Ron, Leah Rugen, and Libby Woodfin.  Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming School through Student-engaged Assessment. Print.



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Checks for Understanding Techniques:
  • oral, written, and visual techniques, implemented in variety or groupings (individually, in teams), that teachers and students use to assess content
Benefits of Checks for Understanding:
  • Students monitor their own progress
  • Students support reasoning with evidence
  • Students become more independent learners
  • Students build growth mindset
  • Students break large goals into smaller ones
  • Students evaluate progress while learning
  • Students build metacognitive understanding of their learning process and academic mindsets
  • Teachers learn if their scaffolding is working
Checks for Understanding: Strategies 
  • Requires culture of trust – see section below
  • Model and practice techniques with students
  • Discuss purpose of techniques with students
  • Discuss importance of honest self assessment
  • Embed in rich tasks aligned to meaningful learning targets
  • Structure such that. ALL students participate
  • Structure such that ALL students support ideas with evidence
  • Develop good questions that simulate and assess powerful thinking
  • Assign and quickly assess using “write to learn” tasks
  • Use varied discussion protocols
  • Select strategies that match depth of thinking
  • Use Quick Checks strategies
  • Strategically listen to students working in small groups and track evidence of progress towards content and character learning targets using checklists
  • Use checklists to track which students were supported, are struggling, etc
  • Use cold call strategies – like using popsicle sticks on randomly call on students to respond to a prompt
  • Use warm call strategies – use popsicle sticks to randomly call on students who will get time to review notes and then respond to a prompt
  • No opt out – all students given opportunity to either get prompt correct on first call or paraphrase a previously given response on second call
  • Give students appropriate thinking time to respond to questions
  • Cue, Clue, Probe, Rephrase
    • Cue – use pics, words, etc to help with recall
    • Clue – use overt reminders
    • Probe – look for reasoning to clarify a correct response or unpack an incorrect response
    • Rephrase – pose response in different words
  • Close lessons with Debriefs –
    • Students synthesize and reflect on lesson
    • Student gather evidence of their learning
  • Use exit tickets to modify next day’s lesson
  • Catch-release – gather students for instruction. release to practice
  • Release-catch – let students explore material and make initial meaning of material, then gather for instruction
Building a Culture of Trust & Collaboration:
  • Treat students as partners in learning process – let them co-create learning targets and norms
  • Be transparent about learning goals and their rationale
  • Get to know students
  • Differentiate instruction for individuals
  • Create norms that promote perseverance and backing up conclusions with evidence
  • Create climate of courtesy and respect, not compliance and control

3-sowhatSee benefits listed above.

Frequently using checks for understanding can help students learn how they are progressing towards learning targets.  Using a variety of checks for understanding strategies can keep feedback and reflections fresh and can encourage active participation of ALL students.  A culture of trust can help students be honest about their progress and help them to actively seek out help as needed.


Preparation Steps
  • Research and gather assessment strategies that go well with different types of learning targets (knowledge, skill, reasoning, character)
  • Design activities that build a culture of trust in classroom
  • Develop checklists that help teachers observe students for key evidence of understanding
  • Build a culture of trust early in the year
Early implementation Steps
  • Model how to use checks for understanding and the importance of using strategy correctly
  • Students use strategies to communicate what they know and need-to-know
  • Modifies lesson pacing in response to checks for understanding
  • Structures lessons and assessments so that all students actively participate
  • Runs debrief and exit ticket activities with students to check what they learned that day and uses that info to plan for tomorrow
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Uses checklists to track observations of students during work time; uses patterns to improve instruction
  • Designs and uses checklists to track progress towards character learning targets

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