Table of Contents

The Benefits of Checking for Understanding

Checking for understanding is a formative assessment practice where educators ask questions or give short assignments and students select or construct their responses. Completed at the end of the period or school day, assessment-literate educators use results to guide planning for the next day’s lesson. If done during the lesson, the assessment is embedded seamlessly in instruction, and educators adjust instruction in the moment.

The benefits of checking for understanding when responses are obtained from all students are the following:

  • Gives educators information quickly about the need to differentiate instruction.
  • Helps educators understand students’ background knowledge, skills, and misconceptions.
  • Models for students how to monitor their own understanding.

But, the biggest payoff is the positive effect on student achievement. Research findings support the boost in student achievement when educators pause to check for understanding and use the information to adjust their teaching (Fisher and Frey 2007).

Time to View

Watch this scene in Mr. Bumble's math class right after he completes an explanation of the statistical concept of the mean. Is he really checking for understanding?

Mr. Bumble Checks for Understanding (Run time :25)

Source: San Joaquin County Office of Education on GoAnimate! 2013
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Later, when Mr. Bumble reviews the results of the unit test, he is surprised to see that only one or two students understood the concept of the statistical mean. Where did Mr. Bumble go wrong? What assumptions did he make?