In the second half of the term, it’s vital to ensure that all of your students are keeping up with the material. Without actively checking progress, some students  might not realize there are holes in their comprehension until they see a final grade on an important exam.

Strategic learners know that the time to assess their understanding of a concept or material is before taking a test, and it should be an ongoing practice.


According to Svinicki and McKeachie, in the text McKeachie’s Teaching Tips, 14th Edition, checking students’ understanding can be as simple as having them try to paraphrase or apply what they’ve been learning.

For example, trying to paraphrase in our own words what we are reading in a textbook is a good way to help build meaning, but it also helps us to identify gaps or errors in our understanding. If we try to apply our knowledge and have difficulty using it, or if we try to explain it to someone else and cannot do it, we would also know that we have some comprehension problems. Monitoring our comprehension is an important part of strategic learning that fosters self-regulation. Only if we know we have a problem in our understanding or a gap in our knowledge can we do something about it. (299)

 Cooperative learning

Another helpful way to assess your students’ understanding is with cooperative learning, which helps teach a variety of learning strategies.

McKeachie explains cooperative learning as a method that builds on peer tutoring:

We have long known that in many traditional tutoring situations the tutor, not the student receiving the tutoring, benefits the most. While processing the content for presentation, the tutor is consolidating and integrating his or her content knowledge. At the same time, the tutor is also learning a great deal about how to learn. The tutor needs to diagnose the tutee’s learning problem, or knowledge gap, in order to help the tutee overcome it. (299)

For more tips on how students can utilize cooperative learning techniques in the classroom, visit our post “College Study Habits: Note Sharing in the Classroom.”

Svinicki, Marilla, and Wilbert J. McKeachie. 2014. McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers,14th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

How do you assess student understanding before finals? Share your ideas below.