Students far too often say they understand something that they don’t, and teachers far too often accept their assurances as fact rather than fiction. In this brief article, Grant Wiggins draws from both researchers and his own classroom experiences to help teachers know if their students really have gotten it. As he says, listen for the dog that does not bark, and look for what the quiz does not show.
This resource provides insightful guidance for teachers monitoring their interactions with students in the classroom. Wiggins focuses directly on the necessity of ongoing, informal formative assessment, and the ways in which a teacher should be gauging the overall comprehension and engagement of the class. Examples of the kinds of “off the ball” interactions—those that involve students not directly engaged in the dialogue or question at hand—and the implications this has on overall comprehension and engagement are clear and compelling. This article is very well-written, speaking directly to teachers as well as instructional coaches, mentors, and administrators. Overall, this is a resource to support teachers in developing stronger systems for “seeing” what is and isn't going on in their classrooms. All of the author's suggestions can be implemented without additional tools or cost, and are immediately relevant within the discourse of the CCSS and implications for greater engagement with academic content. While not directly research-based or research-focused, these strategies are steeped in the commonly held understandings of what good teachers should be doing in the classroom. These are strategies that apply to any teacher, at any grade level.