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Checking Understanding

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I had a good time reading the article “ ‘Any Questions?’: Investigating the Nature of Understanding-Checks in the Language Classroom.” The article attracts me because of two reasons. The first is that it is a well-composed paper that has all the features of a good research paper. I am about to write my first research paper, so reading such materials will be helpful to draw my attention to the qualities of a well-structured paper. The second reason is that the author addresses the essential issue to all teachers, which is "Do the students really understand what had been taught?" As a teacher, I was working hard to define the objectives and the learning outcomes for every lesson, but is that enough? Is having a clear and complete objective enough to make the students understand? Based on my experience, I do not believe that it is true. The teacher may know exactly his/her target and what he/she wants to achieve, but there is still a question “Did she really accomplish her goal?” This article raises the issue of the effectiveness of asking students questions about their understanding.

Asking questions may be proven to be a very effective way to check understanding. According to my experience, I believe that sometimes it may be ineffective. In many cases, students are not willing to give exact responses to what they think. When the teacher asks a question like "Do you have any question?" the answer is always no. Even when I was a student I always answered no to such questions, maybe because I was bored and I just wanted the class to end quickly. So, I think teachers must look for other ways to check their students' understanding.

Being teacher we create the favorable conditions for our students to learn and get new information. While planning we should create opportunities that keep students interested and engaged in the process of learning. The process outcome is to determine the results the students have reached. In order to know if students have learned the concept(s) taught, we can use formative assessment to check their understanding.

Fisher and Frey, (2007) follow the idea that a formative assessment is the one that may be used to improve instruction. It also provides a student feedback and is easily administered with the help of instruction. The results are used by students in order to monitor their own learning. Teachers obtain the results with the aim to check understanding, as well as plan their further instructional steps. Teachers can use many strategies of the formative assessment. Questioning strategies are often used while working with the whole group, individuals, or think-pair-share. They are helpful for teachers who circulate and listen to students sharing, assessed during a lesson. Students are encouraged to write about their learning, hand signals, provide answers to brief questions. Also, teachers can ask their students to reflect on the lesson or to summarize or rephrase the concepts of the lesson.

When I was teaching the 6th grade, I used the small white board to check the students’ understanding of the handwriting rules. It was a very effective and enjoyable way at the same time. It allows a teacher to check the understanding of the whole class without wasting much time.  Another important point that is very much related to checking students' understanding is a good lesson planning. A teacher should include a column or a section in his/her lesson plan to decide what strategies will help to investigate students' understanding.

I like the quote "To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner" by Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher, 1813-1855. Teaching is not a job in which you apply the same methods and ways over and over again. On the contrary, It is a job that needs teachers to look for every new thing that can help their students and strengthen the teaching. Personally, this course was a great opportunity for me to explore the world of teaching.

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