This practice guide will help teachers check that students understand and can apply new knowledge and skills, and give additional instruction, guidance or feedback where necessary.

Monitoring students’ progress by checking for understanding helps you determine what they know and can do, identify gaps in their learning, and adjust your teaching to meet their needs. It helps you create a learning environment where students feel safe and supported to be active participants in the learning process, and it better equips you to provide valuable feedback. Checking for understanding is a crucial part of effective instruction and formative assessment.

This practice guide will help you understand how to:

  • check your students understand and can apply the knowledge and skills they have gained
  • be responsive to students’ needs by supporting them with additional instruction, guidance or feedback where necessary.

References and further reading

Further reading

Hollingsworth, J., & Ybarra, S. (2018). Explicit direct instruction. The power of the well-crafted, well-taught lesson (2nd ed.). Corwin Teaching Essentials.

Chapters 5 and 6 of this book provide practical strategies for using checks for understanding to help students retain new information and connect it to what they already know.

Archer, A., & Hughes, C. (2011). Explicit instruction. Effective and efficient teaching. Guilford Press.

This book provides clear guidelines for checking for understanding, as well as other aspects of explicit teaching. It provides sample lesson plans and includes content related to working with students who have diverse needs. 

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2007) Checking for understanding: Formative assessment techniques for your classroom. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

This freely available book explains how to support learning success via ongoing assessment and adjusting teaching accordingly.


Australian Education Research Organisation. (2023). Introduction to multi-tiered system of supports.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2022). Building a culturally responsive Australian teaching workforce: Final report for Indigenous cultural competency project.

Cabrera, M., & Martinez, P. (2001). The effects of repetition, comprehension checks, and gestures, on primary school children in an EFL situation. ELT Journal, 55(3), 281–288.

Feucht, F. C., Lunn Brownlee, J., & Schraw, G. (2017). Moving beyond reflection: Reflexivity and epistemic cognition in teaching and teacher education. Educational Psychologist, 52(4), 234–241.

Lee, H., Chung, H. Q., Zhang, Y., Abedi, J., & Warschauer, M. (2020). The effectiveness and features of formative assessment in US K–12 education: A systematic review. Applied Measurement in Education, 33(2), 124–140.

Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of instruction: Research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator, 36(1), 12–19.

Ryan, M., Rowan, L., Lunn Brownlee, J., Bourke, T., L’Estrange, L., Walker, S., & Churchward, P. (2022). Teacher education and teaching for diversity: A call to action. Teaching Education, 33(2), 194–213.

Weinstein, Y., Madan, C. R., & Sumeracki, M. A. (2018). Teaching the science of learning. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 3(1), Article 2.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment (US ed.). Solution Tree Press.

Willingham, D. T. (2021). Why don’t students like school? A cognitive scientist answers questions about how the mind works and what it means for the classroom (2nd ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Keywords: observation