Checking Learning and Understanding
1. Checking Learning and Understanding
2. When should we check understanding?• when we are introducing or revising
• when, during an activity, we realise
that our learners haven’t understood
• when we are giving instructions for an
• when we are correcting errors
• when feeding back for comprehension of
a listening or reading activity
3. How can we check understanding?• Using synonyms and
“What’s the opposite of hot?”
• Eliciting or giving definitions
“What are some examples of software?”
• Getting the students to mark
language on timelines
• Asking for personal responses
“What would you do if you saw a bear?”
• Using pictures or realia
• Discriminating between different forms
Example: “I ate my dinner when you arrived” / “I was eating
my dinner when you arrived”
– What’s the difference?
• Using translation
5. Concept questions1.Target sentence: Look! They're painting the wall
Is it happening now?
2.Target sentence: She’s a shop assistant.
She works in a shop
Can you see it?
Is the painting finished?
Has she got a job?
Are they painting now?
Is she working now?
3.Target sentence: If I won the lottery,
I'd buy a new car
Does she work there
Is this the past, present
Present, but also past
and probably future
Is this the past, present or future?
Have I won the lottery?
Am I going to win the lottery?
Am I going to buy a new car?
Has he got a lottery ticket?
6. ParaphrasingAccording to Svinicki and McKeachie (McKeachie’s Teaching
Tips, 14th Edition)
For example, trying to paraphrase in our own words what we are
reading in a textbook is a good way to help build meaning, but it
also helps us to identify gaps or errors in our understanding. If we
try to apply our knowledge and have difficulty using it, or if we try
to explain it to someone else and cannot do it, we would also know
that we have some comprehension problems. Monitoring our
comprehension is an important part of strategic learning that
fosters self-regulation. Only if we know we have a problem in our
understanding or a gap in our knowledge can we do something
7. Cooperative learningCooperative learning
McKeachie explains cooperative learning as a
method that builds on peer tutoring:
We have long known that in many traditional tutoring
situations the tutor, not the student receiving the tutoring,
benefits the most. While processing the content for presentation, the tutor is consolidating and integrating his or her
content knowledge. At the same time, the tutor is also learning a
great deal about how to learn. The tutor needs to diagnose the
tutee’s learning problem, or knowledge gap, in order to help the
tutee overcome it.
8. Checking understanding of instructions• Modelling the activity with one
• Asking one pair of students to model
• Asking students to repeat the
instructions back to you – if you have
broken the instructions down into clear
steps, this becomes easier
9. How not to check understanding
• Learners may be afraid or shy to admit
that they don’t understand. Loss of face
with peers or the teacher can be an issue.
• Learners may think they understand but
don’t. False friends are one reason for
this. For example, a French student may
think “actually” translates as
“actuellement”. (“Actuellement” in fact
translates more like “at the moment”,
“currently” or “nowadays”).