Principles of Instruction - Checking for Understanding


 Overview

Rosenshine (2012) identified that the most effective teachers ask students targeted questions to frequently check for understanding. Checking for Understanding (often referred to as CFU), should occur throughout each phase of the teaching cycle, not just at the end of a lesson or unit of work. It involves the teacher continually verifying that students are learning what is being taught whilst it is being taught. This ongoing assessment allows teachers to make timely decisions about instruction and ensure that gaps and misconceptions are addressed prior to teaching new skills.

  Classroom Illustration

There are a variety of strategies that teachers can use to check for understanding (Click to access the CFU strategies guide here). To reliably gauge the level of understanding of all students, a sampling of responses from the entire class, not just the select few who regularly raise their hand to answer questions, is required. This sampling can be achieved by either calling upon students to respond in unison or by randomly selecting ‘non-volunteers’ to conduct checks of understanding. Checking for understanding also increases engagement of the class as students are being asked to do something.

Illustration: 

Example

Teacher: What is the next step in this mathematics problem (pause).. Sam?

Student responds.

Teacher: Do you agree with Sam’s answer (pause).. Tom?

Student responds yes or no.

Teacher: Why/why not?

Note that the teacher called upon non-volunteers after posing the question, thereby ensuring that all students attended to the question in the likelihood that they may be selected. All students were required to attend to their peer’s initial response as the teacher called on additional non-volunteers. Sampling a few student responses allows teachers to gauge the level of understanding across the class.

  Personalised Learning

A barrier can be an obstacle or issue that may prevent students from successfully accessing and participating in the instructional practice. When teachers are Checking for Understanding, there may be some potential barriers that need to be considered for students with additional needs. These may include response modes in a whole class setting and the pace of the lesson to respond appropriately.

Some potential adjustments may include:

  • Providing resources that assist comprehension of the checking for understanding questions as well as offer choice and alternative modes for responses where required. Responses can include yes/no responses, hand gestures, select a number from multiple choice or point to picture etc.
  • Providing ample wait time for a response to allow for processing time.
  • Using choral responses so that all students can respond, and a targeted student may just listen to the response in the initial stage.
  • Calling on other students first and provide advance notice that a student will be asked so that a correct answer can be ‘heard’ first.
  • Allowing students to be paired with a buddy who can support them. Students may be able to ‘pair share’ with a buddy before calling on them to share with the class.
  • Allowing students to ‘pass’ or ‘phone a friend’ or hear other students’ responses before returning back to them.
  • Finding a suitable time to check with the student and conference individually to ascertain the level of understanding of the content.

  Resources

A checklist for Checking for Understanding using ‘TAPPLE’
Dataworks: How to Check for Understanding using TAPPLE

Blog site that outlines information about CFU with a downloadable ‘TAPPLE’ poster

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Classroom Questioning: Common Problems and Practical Solutions

Informative blog by Australian teacher, John Kenny

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Checking For Understanding – Chartered College of Teaching

PDF document outlining a summary of the purpose of CFU

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Teach Like a Champion

Video illustration of two secondary teachers using CFU (English and Maths lesson)

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The Teacher Toolkit

Short videos detailing strategies to CFU. Primary and secondary level examples are included (requires registration).

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