Gauging Student Needs

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    Gauging Student Needs




    Gauging Needs
    Students bring a wide variety of experiences, abilities, and interests to any new topic. A thorough understanding of the students’ background knowledge and understanding helps teachers design instruction to address misconceptions and to take advantage of relevant experiences. 

    The table below includes an overview of the methods, purposes, and instruments used for gauging student needs. Links provide more detailed information and specific examples.

    Assessment Method


    When Used


    Examining Student Work

    Examining student work reveals the nature and extent of student understanding, clarifies learning expectations for students, and provides opportunities to assess the quality of a previously taught task or plan and the implications for instructional practice.

    Before planning the project, look at student work and ask: What skills, knowledge, and understandings do the students demonstrate? What is the evidence? What are the misconceptions? Are there any patterns or trends to focus on?

    • Samples of work and assessments from different students
    • Samples of one student over time
    • Data from tests

    Graphic Organizers 

    Graphic organizers provide a visual representation of student’s current conceptual understanding and thinking processes and illuminate preconceptions.

    At the beginning of a project elicit information from students by creating a graphic organizer on a chart to get an accurate idea of students’ prior knowledge. Provide organizers for individual student use throughout the project.

    Know-Wonder-Learn (K-W-L) Charts

    K-W-L charts provide a structure for students to think about what they know about a topic, note what they want to know, and finally record what has been learned and is yet to be learned. They allow students to make personal connections before the content is deeply explored.

    Use at the beginning of a project, during a class discussion, or individually in journals.

    • Topic on chart paper or electronic white board
    • Journal


    Think-Pair-Share asks students to first think about a question, then to pair with someone and verbally share their response, and finally to summarize their ideas for the benefit of the entire class. This helps students organize prior knowledge and brainstorm questions.

    Use at the beginning of a project and during class discussions.

    • Question or prompt 
    • Form for recording summaries and questions


    Students generate terms and ideas related to a topic and form creative connections between prior knowledge and new possibilities.

    Use at the beginning of project, during a class discussion, individually, or in small groups.

    • Topic on chart paper or electronic white board