The learning target was clearly labeled and expressed in more than one way. The lesson went according to plan; it was flawless. Students appeared to really understand what was going on.
But did they really get it?
How do you know that students actually learned what you set out to teach?
It's easy enough to assume that kids "got it" just because you taught it, but we all know that isn't the case. Even the most perfectly executed lesson doesn't guarantee learning by all students. Unfortunately, it takes more than that and the keen teacher knows to look deeper.
Students have grown sophisticated in their ways of getting around knowing. Even testing doesn't adequately show the true understanding of concepts. What we need to be doing is gaging learning in different ways based on practice and mastery of skills and content over time.
At the end of a lesson on absurdist theater the other day in class, students were asked to write alternative endings of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead demonstrating their understanding of the tenets of absurdism. Each group had a small period of time to consider how they would approach this and then share their ideas with the class.
This is what they came up with:
Through synthesis activities, students are able to show what they know by applying their new knowledge to something else. Then as teachers, we can assess how well they got it and determine the best next step strategies with the students.
From the above alternative endings, I was able to glean the level of understanding of theory and structure through their choices, and now to add depth to that understanding, students are writing a 1 Act play to hone their skill with the craft. It's one thing to understand what one author has done, it's another thing to be able to do it themselves. Creation is at the top of
Bloom's taxonomy for a reason.
Too often, we give tests that aren't well made, don't demonstrate the depth of student knowing or not knowing and we hastily move forward to get through our material. If learning is really about a deeper understanding and awareness, then we need to change the construct through which we are collecting data.
Reflection and conversation are great ways to get a better understanding of student learning as well as real-world application.
Here are some strategies all teachers can employ within a class period to see if a student "got it"
Exit tickets that ask more than comprehension level, regurgitation questions - ask students to apply something that happened in your class to future or past learning.
Reflection of some kind that addresses learning using evidence from the lesson that connects the learning to something else - reflections can be written, spoken or on video
Connection activities that ask students to link new learning to older learning
Visualization activities where students draw some concept that has been learned
Question design - ask kids to write their own questions with different levels of Bloom's involved
Gameplay where appropriate can be a great tool as well
Blog writing as a reflective or questioning tool
Mentor activities that ask the student to create something original using the learning as a model
Problem-solving activities where students apply skills to arrive at a solution
If students can complete any or all of the above, then we know they have demonstrated proficiency on some level. As we seek to move kids to mastery, we need to be acutely aware of their progress.
With keen eyes and sound, thoughtful projects, students will show what they know and teachers will be better able to plan according to that reality.
How do you gauge what your kids know? Please share
This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in April of 2015