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Have your students achieved the learning intention?

How do you know when students have got ‘it’, when they have achieved the learning intention? Some suggestions for approaches to infer learning.
© National STEM Learning Centre
How do you know when students have got ‘it’, when they have achieved the learning intention? Is it actually possible to evidence learning or can we just evidence performance, and more importantly how can we support students in knowing that they have been successful as learners?
“The emphasis on assessment and testing, and young people’s performance in tests, promotes a belief that performance is what learning in the classroom is all about. But the relation between learning and performance is not simple, and better performance is not achieved by merely emphasising performance… it is a particular irony that the emphasis on performance can depress performance, while a focus on learning can enhance performance… as teachers know, learning cannot be assumed just because teaching has happened.”
Source: Watkins, C., Carnell, E. and Lodge, C. (2007).
At the start of this week, Dylan discussed that there are good opportunities within lessons where the right sort of question or specific activity can throw up evidence. This evidence indicates to the teacher that students either have or have not understood an idea. There are a number of different activities you could plan to gather evidence to help you infer students’ thinking and ideas about phenomena. Some approaches go beyond just getting students to recall information, and may therefore offer greater insights to support inference about students’ learning. Example activities could explore:
  • Can students apply the idea to a different context?
  • Can students provide reasoning for how an answer was achieved?
  • Can students can identify wrong thinking/ideas from exemplars?
  • Can students critically evaluate the work of others’ or their own work?
  • Can students critique models?


Your approach to inference
How you might infer learning? Draw upon your own experiences or the suggestions above for activities.
Select one of the four cases below. If you do not teach science or mathematics, feel free to choose an example from your own subject.
What would you plan to do to in the lesson to infer how well students have understood:
  1. Primary maths – an idea such as doubling.
  2. Primary science – an idea such as changes in the weather and day length across the seasons.
  3. Secondary maths – an idea such as simultaneous equations.
  4. Secondary science – an idea such as the rate of reaction.
Post your suggestion in the comments below. After you’ve posted your suggestion, take a look at another learner’s suggestion and comment on how and why you could use this with your students, or not.
© National STEM Learning Centre
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