IntelAssessing Projects : Using Assessment to Improve Teaching and Learning

Gauging Learner Needs | Encouraging Self-Direction and Collaboration | Monitoring Progress | Demonstrating Understanding

Project Design

Checking for Understanding and Encouraging Metacognition

Overview and Benefits

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Checking for Understanding and Encouraging Metacognition
Metacognition, or “thinking about thinking” refers to the mental processes that control and regulate how people think. Metacognition is especially important in project work, because learners must make decisions about what strategies to use and how to use them. Marzano’s (1998) research of 4000 different teaching and learning interventions found that those that were most effective in improving learning were those that focused on how learners think about their thinking processes and on how learners feel about themselves as learners.

The table below includes an overview of the methods, purposes, and instruments used for checking for understanding and encouraging metacognition. These methods help teachers check for understanding while they help learners think about their own learning. The same method can be used for both purposes but teachers must be explicit in helping learners think about what and how they are learning through questions and prompts. Links provide more detailed information and specific examples.

Assessment Method Purpose When Used Instrument
Written Journals Journals are extended written reflections on learning or entries in reaction to prompts. In addition to reflections, prompts elicit specific thinking skills at key points in the project. Use throughout the project, at key points and at the end of the project.
Video and Photo Journals These journals capture visual documentation of progress, reactions and reflections or to demonstrate skill development. Use throughout the project, but may be integrated into final products or performances.
  • Outline of Photo Sequence and Topic (shot list)
  • Schedule for Video Scenes
Structured Interviews and Observations Formal oral interviews are scheduled with individuals or teams to probe for understanding. Interview questions (protocol) ask learners to explain and give reasons for their current understanding. Structured observations are similar but are used for skill, process, and performance assessment and can be done by learners as well. Use structured interviews and observations throughout the project.
Informal Questioning Questioning allows learners to openly express their ideas and thoughts, enables them to reflect on other learners’ explanations, as well as make connections. Use to provide challenges, to assess learner understanding, and revise lessons as necessary. Use throughout the project, often during group work or class discussions.
Written and Oral Tests and Quizzes Tests and quizzes offer direct evidence of knowledge acquisition and comprehension. Use at key points within the project and at the end of the project.
  • Test and Quizz Questions