Check Out, Check In, Check Up

She is very confident in her decision, but subjective confidence is a poor index of accuracy of a judgement.”

Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow p.244.

I have been re-reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow because I am interested in expertise – specifically, expertise in the classroom.

In chapter x, Kahneman writes about the differences between experts and novices, and whether intuition can be developed. I want to know whether I can trust my intuition about whether students are learning. Kahneman says I probably can’t, unless I’ve had clear, quick and accurate feedback.

Like most of us, I use proxies to tell in the classroom who is getting it and who isn’t: nodding, smiles, on-taskness. And then I take in the books….

According to Kahneman, experts in any field are generally overconfident in their judgements. Expert teachers generally over-estimate the amount their students are learning. This problem is worst for novice teachers. If they rely on their intuition about whether their students are learning, they can be badly misled.

Did he really have an opportunity to learn? How quick and how clear was the feedback he received from his judgements?

Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow p.244.

Novice teachers need quick, clear and accurate feedback. Feedback from mentors or evidence in books is too late. They need feedback on learning immediately to tell whether their class is getting-it.

But they also need to develop their intuition about long-term retention. They need feedback the next lesson and feedback a month later.

In Teach Like A Champion 2.0, Doug Lemov describes a strategy called the “Exit-Ticket”. We call it a check-out or a plenary. It is common-place. A well designed check-out gives the teacher feedback on the lesson faster than any mentor. By well designed, I mean:

  • It focusses on assessing the most important learning from the lesson.
  • It allows students to demonstrate whether they have understood or not.
  • It allows you to quickly walk round the class and see who can do it and who can’t.

But don’t forget about forgetting. Can you say it was an effective lesson if your students have forgotten it by the next lesson? How can find out how much has been remembered?

The check-in checks the same learning as the check-out. It may even be the same task. We do the check-in as part of the starter activity of the lesson. The teacher can quickly and clearly see whether the previous lesson was as effective as she thought.

But remembering and forgetting is a long, slow process, so you need a check-up.  A check-up takes place weeks and months later. It assesses again whether the learning you thought happened is still there.

All of this assessing gives excellent feedback to the novice teacher, allowing her to develop more accurate intuition. Luckily it is good for the learner too: retrieval practice, spaced practice, and if you add together various check-ins and check-ups, you have interleaving too.

But for trainee teachers, it’s the feedback that’s most important. Your intuition is built on fast, clear and accurate feedback – the fastest way to become an expert.

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