Using Checklists

This article suggests using checklist in our instruction. Checklists are something that everyone uses in everyday life. They can be used in our classrooms to: record data (formative assessment), evaluate (summative assessment), track behavior, list items that need to be included in a project, list items that need to be completed in a task, etc. (Rowlands, 2007, p. 61). Checklists must be flexible and Rowlands suggests using them “with individual students or with the entire class” (Rowlands, 2007, p. 61). Obviously, using checklists with the entire class is more inclusive.

Checklists are a teaching strategy that often gets brought up in inclusive education. They can help students with Autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, visual learners and those that need structure (like me). If you have a student with Autism in your class, checklists and task lists are not an option but a requirement for their success, in most cases. You can create within (steps within a single task) and between (tasks of the day) task checklists, depending on your learners. Checking off items gives students with Autism much needed closure. Students who need their learning broken down or have trouble starting a task can benefit from checklists. Organizational goals, like using checklists, will be found on many of our students’ IIP’s. Rowlands notes that “poor organization skills, rather than a lack of conceptual understanding, prevent [students’ from producing work that fully represents their capabilities, and we then find ourselves in the unhappy position of recording grades that measure lack of clerical competence, rather than lack of content or skill knowledge” (Rowlands, 2007, p. 64-5). Checklists can be a great tool to assist students who have organizational issues. At the end of the day, checklists are a skill that can benefit all of our learners because they are practical and tactile.

Rowlands notes that “by articulating and labeling operational steps, checklists scaffold students’ metacognitive development,” which is important for problem solving, self-aware learners and is part of the revised 2001 Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning. She suggests that teachers can make the checklists but I think since lifelong learning is a goal, student could help construct the checklists. In ECS 410 we learned that if students are part of ALL steps in the learning cycle and assessment process, then they have a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses and the task at hand. When I taught Grade Five at Regina Huda School, we provided the class with a checklist about the requirements of an oral presentation before they presented to the class. One thing Taylor and I should have done is construct this with them. Checklists, in my opinion, can allow students to self-assess before, during and after. It provides a visual for them to see if they have completed all their work or are staying on task. I think if we changed the curriculum outcomes to student-friendly ‘I Can Statements’ then students could check off what outcomes they have achieved and visualize what they still need to work on.

Rowlands suggests using checklists from class-to-class to foster consistency and to help students conference each other’s writing to foster constructive feedback (2007, p. 63). I also think a checklist for each stage of the writing process could help students write better pieces and break down the daunting task of writing even more. Rowlands also suggests that checklists can help with comprehension, research papers and can be put in many different formats, like bookmarks (Rowlands, 2007, p. 64-5). I think a classroom poster or an agenda checklist could also work. Checklists are not rubrics, but when coupled with them I think students would have an even better understanding about what they are expected to do and learn.

Basically, I am all for the checklists. I would use checklists in a boat and I would use them with a goat. And I will use them, in the rain and in the dark, and on a train, and in a car, and in a tree. They are so good, so good, you see! – Dr. Seuss (although this may be paraphrased slightly).

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