Using the KWHL Assessment Tool

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Using the Know, Want to know, How to learn, Learnt (KWHL) Tool

Assessment FOR, OF, and AS logo

Aldercourt Primary School

This tool was trialled at Aldercourt Primary School by Melissa Swayn with Grade 1 and 2 Maths and Melissa Wisniewski with Grade 5 and 6 in an integrated unit.

We used this assessment tool:

  • to enable teachers to plan appropriately, ensuring that the activities fit the needs and interests of the students. We aimed to:
    • gain an understanding of the extent of the student’s previous knowledge on the given topic
    • develop an understanding of what the students' interests are regarding the topic
    • gauge what they learned.

We used the tool in the following way:

Grade 1 and 2 Mathematics

I used a KWHL to gain information on what the students knew about rulers, what they wanted to learn about rulers, and to assess what they had already learned.

The students listed all their prior knowledge as a whole class activity. From this information I decided that they had little prior experience in using rulers and that they also wanted to use the rulers to discover the measurements of certain objects. They then used the rulers to measure different objects in the room, comparing their results to other forms of measurement. They also discussed formal and informal types of measurement and recorded their answers in pairs. In addition, they listed the difficulties that they encountered such as, inaccurate results due to misuse of the ruler. After using a variety of rulers, including metre rulers, they then listed what they had learned. This was invaluable as an assessment tool because their observations were different to mine. They discovered that it’s important to be aware of where zero is and that you don’t always have to start at zero, particularly if you are measuring an object that is difficult to measure. They also discovered that their knowledge of numbers, counting on, addition and subtraction also needed to be considered. These observations led me to my follow up lesson.

I used the KWHL from the maths lesson to observe students who had difficulty using a ruler. As a result I was able to make adjustments as we went. For students who had no difficulties, I was able to encourage them to find more uses for the ruler and to use the information for further investigations. For example, comparing the results of objects and finding out if they would fit into a certain space. This generated more questions from the children on what they wanted to know and how they would go about it.

Grade 5 and 6 for an integrated unit

This tool was used at the beginning of the unit SPACE. Students shared their knowledge of space and all ideas were written down under the column labelled 'Know'. Students then shared ideas about what they would like to learn about space, these were listed under the column labelled 'W'. After this I asked the students to select three areas from the 'Want to know' column. Each student then researched their chosen areas and shared their findings with the class. At the end of the term when the topic was completed, we focused on the 'Learnt' section of the KWHL. Students shared what they had learnt in unit SPACE. This included what students had researched themselves and what was taught during the lessons and activities.

The information gained from this assessment tool was used to assess the students' prior knowledge and then to plan the unit SPACE using the ‘How to learn' section. Completing the 'Learnt' section of the KWHL at the end of the unit allowed me assess the unit and students' progress and understanding.

We could improve the usefulness of this tool by:

  • constant use of this tool. As the students become even more familiar with it, it could be used as a tool for self-assessment by the students. This could assist with the monitoring of their individual learning and the writing of individual learning plans.

You could use this tool to:

Grade1 and 2 teacher:

  • as a way of writing individual learning plans for certain students. The teacher could also use them to assess how well they know their students for report writing.
Grade 5 and 6 teacher:
  • in all subject areas. The Grade 5 and 6 teacher decided to complete the first two stages before planning all the integrated units.

Horsham Secondary College

This tool was trialled at Horsham Secondary College by Lyn Sudholz with Year 10 English class and with the staff.

I used this assessment tool:

  • with Year 10 English students because I wanted to establish the students' level of prior knowledge about the terms 'literature review' and 'anecdotal evidence' that they were using in relation to a self-directed comparison of two pieces of technology. For example, LCD TV versus plasma, iPod versus MP3 player.
  • with School staff as an introductory activity at a whole school Professional Development to implement Victorian Essential Learning Standards and provide an opportunity to model the use of formative assessment. I like this tool because it is a useful planning guide that acknowledges prior learning. It gave me a starting point to know how familiar staff were with the new curriculum innovations. It also made some staff members understand that they need to know this material. It highlighted the fact some staff members had made the effort to keep with the new curriculum innovations while others still needed to do much more work.

I used the tool in the following way:

Year 10 English

Students recorded what they already knew, what they needed to know, how they would find out and what they learned along the way. They found the process confronting because they had to be honest about their learning and there was no way of avoiding the hard questions. Their responses were written into the formative assessment requirements for the class. Students made suggestions as to how they could work more efficiently in future. I used a number of the other assessment tools with this class and students chose which ones they liked for their pair and end reflections. I noted that students need some scaffolding in the 'W' and 'L' sections.

School staff

Individuals used their findings to enrol in the next round of PD sessions. It also gave me an idea of what I needed to do to present at subsequent staff PD. The level of engagement has increased and apprehension has dissipated.

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