Topics in Secondary Ed: Using Writing to Check for Understanding

February 4, 2011

Writing is an important assessment tool that should be utilized when checking for understanding. From very early in a student’s curriculum reading stays an important focus in their education. By being able to properly communicate by writing effectively, students will be able to properly transmit their ideas in a medium that their peers can understanding. It is important that teachers utilize this method to properly assess student’s understanding as writing can be used in a variety of situations to convey ideas that students and teachers would have trouble using in a variety of other settings. By using these techniques students could properly be able to communicate narratives, informative essays, and persuasive writing. By assessing these methods, teachers can learn a great deal about how much students understand. There are many methods that also utilize group interaction to help students express ideas to other students, and then reform any errors or make improvements based on another student’s perspective. This method of  Reading the associated text or knowledge base, Writing about what they’ve gained through it and understand about it, Pairing up to share their ideas, and then Sharing them with each other proves beneficial as it allows students to properly assess their own success, but also helps the teacher assess how well they understand the topic. Writing is an important tool for assessment, but it can be misused as a punishment. In this way, the students do not gain understanding and have issues with properly expressing what they understand. This doesn’t help the teachers check for understanding, and it doesn’t help the students learn.

The RAFT approach to checking for understanding is an interesting method. It helps students identify key topics in a piece of writing by identifying them in easy to understand, broad terms. By properly associating the Role of the writer, the writer’s Audience, the Format the author is writing in, and the Topic of the piece, students can understand many of the key points in a piece of writing and be able to communicate their understanding to the teacher.


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