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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.
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.
Teacher: What is the next step in this mathematics problem (pause).. Sam?
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.
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:
Blog site that outlines information about CFU with a downloadable ‘TAPPLE’ poster
PDF document outlining a summary of the purpose of CFU
Video illustration of two secondary teachers using CFU (English and Maths lesson)
Short videos detailing strategies to CFU. Primary and secondary level examples are included (requires registration).