Step 6: Assessing Student Learning

At every stage of the Decoding process it is crucial to obtain regular feedback on what mental operations students have masted and what emotional obstacles might be present that would interfere with learning.

  • At the beginning of a class it is important to know what bottlenecks are present in a particular group of students and what expectations they bring to the course about the processes used in the discipline and the subject matter that will be covered.
  • Each exercise modeling and providing practice should include some process for determining the extent to which the students have mastered these particular operations
  • At the end of a course it is important to evaluate the extent to which Decoding has succeeded and to prepare to respond to any continuing difficulties in the next iteration of the course.

It is important to stress that most of these assessments should be targeted at specific mental operations or emotional reactions.  Global assessments are sometimes useful to determine whether students can combine crucial elements into larger scale activities, but generally assessments are more useful when  they are targeted more narrowly.

Examples of Decoding assessments may be found in Joan Middendorf and Leah Shopkow, Decoding the Disciplines: How to Help Students Learn Critical Thinking (Stylus, 2017) and Pace, David. The Decoding the Disciplines Paradigm (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2017) (Chapter 6) and in the video below.

The Collaborative Nature of Decoding

The entire Decoding process can be greatly facilitated by collaboration, and it is important that the results of individual explorations be shared with others.  Therefore, Step 7 of Decoding involves sharing.