As teachers we want our students to get it. We long for them to show us that they can do the work, that they understand what we have taught. After all, we’ve spent a great deal of time reading, researching, planning and gathering materials for differentiating, etc. Then we observe student’s work and either find an exemplary, proficient, developing or inaccurate response. However, when teaching analyzing and/or evaluating (which is best taught through content), many student responses convey that reteaching is required. For those students whose responses are accurate, many lack an understanding of the why and how of a particular task and it’s relevance to their lives.
Over the years many administrators have visited classrooms asking students questions about their learning. The premise is that students who truly comprehend the task have the ability to articulate what they have learned (explaining the process), why they have learned it, what to do when they get stuck, and how it applies to other learning and/or their lives. This process of assessing learning has demonstrated direct and immediate feedback for teachers and administrators. It is a process that has compelled many Educators to question, how can I truly know my students understand, beyond what’s on the paper.
Similarly, as a Consultant, Teacher Mentor and Teacher, I’ve experienced students providing the right responses but lacking the ability to explain the why and how of it. When students can not explain the purpose for the learning or the process of their learning, they tend to disconnect from its depth of meaning and it’s relevance to other learning and their lives.If we want our students to gain and maintain relevant meaning, it’s crucial that we integrate the why and how questions into our lesson plans and instruction. Here are a few suggested areas:
We can integrate why and how questions within the
- Do Now
- Essential Questions
- Benchmark Questions
- Reflective Wrap Up Questions
We also want to reinforce students taking responsibility for their learning. To foster such an environment we must provide students with the tools that will support the process. Teaching students how to ask relevant questions about their learning is a crucial component that requires clear expectations, effective modeling, time for application, consistency and measures for monitoring comprehension.
Yes, when we consider all that is required of teachers, this is no small feat. However, since the goal is teaching our students to think and articulate the why and how of their learning, we can not afford to bypass having a clear picture of what our students truly understand and need to learn.