Check for Learning

An instructor calls on students who are raising their hands to respond.

Check for Learning

Checking for learning takes place throughout a course — before, during, and after instruction. Wherever these assessments occur, they yield information about learning that benefits both instructor and students.

How Can I Do This?

Use your learning outcomes to create checks for learning before, during, and after instruction that tell you and your students how well they are achieving those outcomes.  Focus on assessing what students already know or believe, what they are coming to understand or what they are learning, and then what they have learned.

Before: Diagnostic Checks for Learning

Diagnostic assessments provide usable knowledge about what students already know and understand before instruction. Ask yourself these questions as you plan this check for learning:

  • What do I assume students already know?
  • What kinds of questions will help me confirm/disconfirm my assumptions?
  • What are some common misconceptions or myths related to my subject?
  • How am I going to analyze the results?
  • How will I reshape my instruction in response to what I learn from those results?
  • See Table of Checks for Learning Before Instruction
During: Formative Checks for Learning

Formative assessments show how students are progressing toward the course learning outcomes during a particular period of instruction. Ask yourself these questions as you plan these checks for learning:

  • What information might help me and my students gauge their progress toward our learning targets?
  • How can I use different formative assessments to get a full picture of what students know and can do?
  • What feedback can I develop to move students forward in their learning?
  • See Table of Checks for Learning During Instruction
After: Summative Checks for Learning

Summative assessments “sum up” what your students have learned after completing a course or instructional unit. Ask yourself these questions as you plan your summative checks for learning:

Why Is This Important?

Learning takes place in students’ heads, and we can’t see what’s actually being learned until we check for learning.  These checks allow you to “see” and assess how and what students are learning. You and your students can use this information throughout the instructional process:

Checks before learning establish a baseline to work from.
  • Help you plan for class, determine next steps, evaluate what students have already learned, and plan future units or courses.
  • Help students identify areas of strength and allows them to be more in charge of their learning.
Checks during learning allow for adjustments along the way.
  • Help you adapt your plans according to what students are learning.
  • Give you a sense of how many students are struggling or where the concentrations of confusion are.
  • Inform students about what they are learning and where they need to work more.
  • Learn more about assessments that don't have to be graded.
Checks after learning measure how much ground was covered.
  • Help you evaluate your plan’s success according to targeted learning outcomes.
  • Give you valuable information on student learning you can use to plan for your next teaching experience.
  • Give students a record of what they have learned.

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