Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey CHECKING FOR UNDERSTANDING: --Formative Assessment Techniques For Your Classroom
The second addition of Fisher and Frey ‘s Checking for Understanding updates the research findings on how to effectively use formative assessments as a tool to measure student’s growth towards their grade level standards. The “framework for intentional and targeted teaching” is based on the gradual release of responsibility model. The structure provides students with engaging experiences teachers can use to determine what student know, don’t know and where did they get stuck.
“The framework we have developed includes four recursive phases:
Guided instruction, and
In each phase, teachers check for understanding” (p 11).
This framework addresses the first essential question of a learning community, what do we want our students to know and be able to do? Most importantly when the teachers continue to monitor student’s responses, it supports the teacher taking action on the remaining three essential questions. How will we know they have learned it, what do we need to do more of or differently if they haven’t learned it, and how can we extend students proficiency level? Taking action based on the collection of formative assessment data to improve student learning is the outcome goal for every teacher.
Fisher and Frey offer several recommendations throughout their book. As a principal in a school in improvement I would recommend their oral language and questioning formative assessments strategies to check for student’s understanding. Students need to talk—more, and teachers need to listen—more. The use of sentence frames to guide their thinking will not only support the use of more academic language, but provide opportunities to engage in collaborative conversations. This structured student discourse should be carefully scaffolded and revisited throughout the lesson to check student’s understanding.
Using questions to check for understanding should move beyond an a or b response. They are developed during the lesson planning process to “engage students’ creative and critical thinking” (p. 40). Bloom’s Taxonomy for the 21st Century and the Question Stems for Webb’s Depth of Knowledge frameworks are a great way to determine what they know or don’t know. The continuum of difficulty also provides a much-needed resource for teachers to check beyond the surface knowledge of student’s understanding, to provide opportunities for students to apply, analyze, synthesize and evaluate new knowledge.
In the last chapter Fisher and Frey offer the reader to check their own understanding of formative assessment. What points stuck with you and what do you need to go back and review to “make it stick.” Teaching is like that, constantly checking our own understanding.