Truer words, perhaps, have never been spoken. The job we do every day with our students comes with the wrong name, teacher. As a verb, “teaching” is a one-way activity whereby the sage with all the knowledge explains, demonstrates, and passes all of their knowledge onto their students. BUT, that’s not how it works is it? No, we’re facilitators, leaders of exploration, motivational speakers; we’re lots of things and yes, we occasionally ‘teach’ as well.
Anyway, I don’t want to take up your time ranting about your job title but rather asking you a question, the very same question asked by Edutopia blogger and educational coach, Elena Aguilar…”Do you check for understanding often enough with students?” Jumping back to that great quote (also from Aguilar), it’s not about imparting your knowledge on your students but rather facilitating their learning. Often times as teachers we can feel rushed to complete a lesson or unit because we have to get to the next one, just so we can finish everything we want to cover for the year. That’s a normal feeling but is it worth it, what about quality over quantity?! So, I’d like to ask two of my own questions, ‘How do you know your students are actually learning what you want them to?’ and ‘When your students leave the classroom, do you know how well each of your students understood the day’s objective?’ These two questions are essential, if you can’t (honestly) answer in a way that is truly positive then perhaps it’s worth rethinking your strategies for checking for understanding and student learning. It’s not okay to rely on a quiz every 8 days to tell you which students are getting it and where the gaps in learning happen to be. Frequent and accurate checks for understanding are the key to ensuring learning in our classrooms. Have a look at Elena Aguilar’s blog post regarding checks for understanding as well as the attached PDF with techniques for quick and easy formative assessment (from Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding By Design, via http://www.christina.k12.de.us/). No matter how confident you are with this aspect of teaching it never hurts to try something new 🙂