Some teachers seem to be able to assess instinctually, listening in on conversations between groups, keeping track of students who raise their hands, and reading the facial expressions and body language of students in their classes. But there are also established strategies that can help both novice and experienced teachers understand student thinking. These can supplement other methods of gathering information about learning, such as tests and term papers. Here are a few ideas for assessing student thinking:
- Have students summarize research or readings in class. If students seem reluctant to speak up in front of peers, have them discuss and share in pairs or small groups.
- Ask students to debate aspects of a topic covered in class. For example, having students discuss whether cloning is ethical is a good way to see if they really understand what cloning involves.
- Walk around the room as students are working on projects and listen in on what they are doing. Ask them what they plan to do next, what roadblocks they've experienced, and what they've learned so far.
- Take a few minutes at the end of each class period to gather data about what students have learned or understood. On a 3x5-inch index card, ask students to do the following: respond to a question, sketch their understanding of a concept, write a 3-2-1 summary (e.g., three important ideas they learned today, two questions they have, one thing about the class that really supported their learning), etc. The information provided on the card can afford the instructor a lot of data to make decisions about how to approach the next class. (See "Conducting Classroom Research" later in this module for more ideas.)