Like Gloria and Rccola, I rely on visual observation quite a bit to determine whether my students are learning. When my students can correctly answer each other’s questions during open class discussion (without looking in a book), I look upon that as evidence of learning. Likewise, I know that they are learning if they can answer my questions. Another way that I know my students are learning is through the use of open-ended questions. Here, I will remind everyone that I teach Spanish. Let’s say, for example, we have been studying vocabulary about schools and all of the activities that take place there. On a quiz, I may ask a few fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions in addition to a writing prompt that necessitates describing the school, telling about their schedule, extracurricular activities, types of activities that they do in their favorite classes and grades they make, and anything else that they would like to write about their school life. If they write coherent paragraphs related to the writing prompts, I feel as though they are learning because the writing is more than just a recall of facts. To meaningfully communicate they must use the language to write logical sentences that will in due course become paragraphs.
A sign that I use to judge whether my students are learning is the ability to apply what we are learning in class to another situation that is largely an independent student creation. For example, an indication of learning may be concluded if students make impromptu comments on a topic or engage in dialogue that has not previously been presented and practiced in class. I think that proof of learning can also be found in questions that students ask of me. If they understand enough of the content to form a cogent question, I reason that we are on a positive track to learning.
Then there are the rubrics and projects that we can use to see how well students complete a project, but that may not always tell us that they have learned everything. It may just tell us that some students are very good at crossing every “t” and dotting every “i”. I would like to believe that students who go to the trouble of carrying out every task required on a rubric to obtain the highest possible grade absorb a substantial amount of the content because a thorough investigation of the topic is necessary to get a good grade.
In the online environment, teachers don’t have the advantage of physical observation of students and students don’t have the f2f with teachers that sometimes give them visual clues with which they assess themselves. It seems to me that with online classes, teachers would get to know students through their writing styles and the attendant voice. Through personal interaction with the students and observation of their interactions with others, teachers could determine their level of understanding of the subject matter. Similarly, individual responses to prompts and class discussion would provide clues to students’ levels of comprehension. Teachers can use the same questioning strategies used in a traditional classroom to promote thinking and assess students’ learning stages by their answers. Similar to the use of classroom projects, online projects could be used to help students learn and assess their readiness for subsequent activities.