Gauging Comprehension after the Class Discussion

It’s important to understand how well your students grasp important ideas and concepts focused on in a class discussion. Here are some suggestions for getting the feedback you need to gauge whether they are "getting it" or not and what they are missing.

Avoid Yes or No Questions

Avoid asking yes or no questions and phrases. For instance, "Does this make sense?" Naturally, "yes" is the response you most want to hear. But how often is that an honest answer? And how often do students later admit how completely lost they are?

To help them comprehend key ideas and concepts, ask pointed questions that require students to use their own prior knowledge, or open-ended questions that require some critical thinking.

Summarizing and Paraphrasing

After you've explained an important concept or a difficult set of instructions, ask students to summarize or paraphrase it in their own words. Whenever appropriate ask them to include examples. If you'd like to gauge the extent of all students' comprehension, have them turn in written summaries.

Using Quizzes

Give short quizzes on important concepts or ideas covered either in class or in an assigned reading.

NOTE: For a more comprehensive guide on developing discussion strategies, please see Leading Classroom Discussions, a TILT Teaching Guide.

Copyright and Permissions:

This Teaching Tip was adapted from material developed by Kerri Eglin for the Writing@CSU Web site at Colorado State University.

Contributors:

Peter Connor - TILT Web Content Writer and Editor