Checking for Understanding Using Ask, Ask, Ask

Gather real-time data about what students know and are able to do by using a series of related questions asked in quick succession.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Ask, Ask, Ask is a verbal, individual-student method of checking for understanding. You could think of this method as _checking for understanding using questioning.î However, there are couple of subtleties that make this method more than just asking questions. First, you are not asking a single question of a single student, but rather a set of similar questions to several students in quick succession. Second, you should wait to reveal the correct answer until you have sampled enough students to make an inference about the whole classs understanding.

Method Components

Three universal characteristics of effective CFUs

  • What and when to CFU: The check for understanding comes at a critical moment in the lesson; the teacher is intentionally finding out about the "right stuff" at the"right time."
  • Unbiased inference: The method allows the teacher to make an unbiased (or less biased) inference about the class' objective mastery of the lesson (through either individual assessment or representative sampling).
  • Instructional Adjustment: The teacher leverages the CFU data in the moment to determine the next instructional move (e.g., continue with the lesson, pinpoint a particular misunderstanding, reteach the concept)

Three universal characteristics as they relate to Ask, Ask, Ask

  • Teachers use Ask, Ask, Ask to check for understanding of important content.
    • For example, teachers check for understanding at key moments in the lesson that are revelatory of students progress toward mastering the lesson objective.
  • Teachers use Ask, Ask, Ask to make less biased inferences about what students know and can do.
    • A: The teacher asks the same or a similar question to provide enough evidence to make an inference about students understanding.
      • For example, _What are the key differences between plant cells and animal cells? <wait time> Canita [a middle-performing student]? <correct response> Thank you. What do you think are the key differences between plant and animal cells? <wait time> Bryan [a struggling student]? B: What Canita said. T: What, specifically, are the key differences? <half-correct response>. Thanks. What do you think are the key differences between plant cells and animal cells? <wait time> Robin [a low-performing student]? <half-correct response>. Do you agree with Robin? <wait time> Kory?
    • B: The teacher asks a sufficient sample of students to support an inference about the whole classs understanding.
      • For example, in the transcript above, notice that the teacher strategically selects a set of students by performance level. She likely adjusted that selection based on the responses.
    • C: The teacher waits to reveal the correct answer until she has sufficiently sampled the students to make an inference about the classs level of understanding.
      • For example, in the transcript above, notice how the teacher does not acknowledge (either in word or in body language) whether answers are correct or not. Consequently, the next students answer is more likely to represent his or her own understanding.
  • Teachers make appropriate instructional adjustments in light of the formative CFU data.
    • For example, the teachers next instructional move should be different if three students who are relatively representative of the entire class get the answer correct than if three of the highest performers get the answer correct.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 7–74. doi:10.1080/0969595980050102
  • Crooks, T. (1988). The impact of classroom evaluation practices on students. Review of Educational Research, 58(4), 438–481.
  • Cazden, C. B. (1988). Classroom Discourse: The Language of Teaching and Learning. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
  • Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2007.) Checking for Understanding: Formative Assessment Techniques for Your Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  • Fuchs, L. S., & Fuchs, D. (1986). Effects of systematic formative evaluation: A meta-analysis. Exceptional Children, 53(3), 199–208.
  • Popham, W. J. (2008). Formative assessment: Seven stepping stones to success. Principal Leadership, 9(1), 16.
  • Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

  • Lemov, D. (2010). Teach Like a Champion. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 88–92.
  • Saphier, J., Haley-Speca, M., & Gower, R. (2008). The Skillful Teacher: Building Your Teaching Skills. Acton: Research for Better Teaching. 194.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive passing scores for Part 1 and a “Proficient” or “Exemplary” for each descriptor in the Part 2 rubric.

Part 1. Overview questions

  • Lesson Objectives: List your objective(s) from the lesson in which you used Ask, Ask, Ask to check for understanding.
  • Lesson Description (150-word limit): Describe this lesson generally and the specific activity or activities in which you check for understanding using Ask, Ask, Ask.
  • OPTIONAL Teaching Context (100-word limit): Please describe any other important context that an external observer would need to understand this lesson or your particular teaching context.

Part 2. Evidence/artifacts

To earn the Checking For Understanding Using Ask, Ask, Ask micro-credential, you must submit video of two distinct checks for understanding using Ask, Ask, Ask and analyze each clip. Each artifact is assessed according to a four-point rubric. To earn this micro-credential, you must score at least a “3” or “Proficient” for each descriptor.

Submission Expectations

A: Check For Understanding Clips:

  • Show two distinct checking for understanding sequences using Ask, Ask, Ask; please include the timestamp for each sequence (e.g., 0:00–2:45) in your response.
    • Each sequence should show the lead-up to the CFU using Ask, Ask, Ask; the use of Ask, Ask, Ask; and any following adjustment to your instruction based on the data.
    • Multiple clips can be edited together; the video need not (and probably should not) be a continuous clip.
    • The teacher and students should be audible and/or subtitled.
    • The entire video submission should be less than eight minutes.

B: Video Analysis:

  • Describe each CFU sequence. In each description please answer all of the following questions (100-word limit for each clip):
    • Transcribe the set of questions in each Ask, Ask, Ask sequence (transcribed questions don’t count toward the maximum word allowance).
    • Why did you choose to CFU at the selected moment of the lesson? That is, given the objective(s), why CFU here?
    • How did your use of Ask, Ask, Ask allow you to make an unbiased inference about student understanding?
    • Following the check for understanding, what was your next instructional move? How did the CFU data inform your decision?

Please note: Across your artifacts, you should preserve the identity of your students (e.g., redact names, do not use first and last names).

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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