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By regularly checking in with our campers, we can better ensure that they are learning what we think we are teaching them and we can make early adjustments to our lessons to make sure that there is maximum interest and engagement.



Ensuring that learners retain what they learn has always been a challenge.  Educators do not always know what "sticks" and what is too-easily forgotten until years after a period of instruction.  All too often, classes and lessons advance well past the point that a majority of students are engaged and actively "learning". 


Teachers fall into the habit of "filling the air" with explanations, often verbal only, that extend past the point at which students stop listening (usually after a sustained explanation taking longer than 20 minutes).  The result is that instruction only works for learners predisposed to retaining the things they hear, which modern educational science has informed us, are less common than we first imagined when tradition classroom arrangements and instructional methods were designed.

What we know now is that students need more than just things "explained".  In order to thrive in the classroom, and stay connected to the information, students not only need a variety of instructional methods, but also need to know that they are not being left behind; that it's safe to pause, ask questions and ensure they grasp things before the lesson moves on.  



Knowing how to pace a lesson based on learner feedback, takes practice.  Staff need to also be prepared to slow some lessons based on feedback / group experience, while other groups and their reports on level of understanding permits a whole different pace.  Here are a couple techniques and reminders for both in-person and online instruction:


Ask campers to raise a hand and demonstrate their understanding based on the amount of fingers they hold up. Five fingers means they feel they totally understand, one finger means they are totally lost.​​


Pair up campers. Ask them to individually consider the answer to a question about a concept that you have just taught them. Ask them to turn to their partner and explain the concept to the partner. Ask for a couple volunteers from the listening partners to summarize for the group the answer they were told by their partner. Thank participants for sharing.


This Provides an opportunity for campers to hang their learning on one key concept): As a session ends, ask each student to write in the chat (or to speak it out loud in turn) one key concept that they learned from the session. If in person, this can be done by providing each camper with a small piece of paper, or ask them to do it orally as they leave, or even approach the whiteboard and write it down before leaving.


Younger learners need more regular checks for understanding, as well as shorter instructional intervals.   


You have been instructing a group on how to construct a strong case; on the topic of - This House Supports publicly-funded healthcare .  You suspect a couple campers are looking at things in other tabs on their computers and losing focus on your desired outcome. How could you use a check for understanding to re-engage the campers and to better gauge what they know so you can adjust your pace?






Why is checking for understanding important? 

How can you use assessment to inform your teaching?


What strategies can be applied?

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