The Spot Check

The spot check

by Evangelidou Foteini, Greece 2014

“The spot check” is an easy and interesting way for investigating children’s thinking at particular moments.

There are many times that teachers have no idea what students think. Teachers just look children’s faces and try to imagine what’s in their minds and how they are feeling at that moment. Are they bored? Are they interested in the learning processes? Are they waiting for the break? Are they concentrated? Are they happy, sad, anxious…???

It is really important for every teacher to understand what his/her students want and how they feel. If they understand their students’ thinking, they will have the chance to find the appropriate way to help them not only in learning but also in emotional processes.

What exactly is the spot check and how can it be used by teachers???

This simple technique finds out about how students are feeling/thinking/concentrating at particular moments. It is based on a technique called ‘periodic subjective sampling’ invented  by Csikzentimihalyi in 1993.

Its main purpose is to generate a dialogue around the data which it furnishes.

At a number of random moments (for example through a day), and without much reflection, students (and the teacher) record how they feel in relation to each of the items. It is very quick to do and should not disrupt normal activity too much.

Collecting perspectives from different viewpoints can be particularly illuminating and prompt a rich discussion.


Students have a copy of the spot check but don’t use it until a specific moment in a lesson when they are asked to immediately fill it out.

Circle the number that best describes how you are feeling at the moment. For example, if you are concentrating on your work, circle 3;  if you are thinking about other things, circle 1; and if you are in-between, circle 2.

The Spot Check can be used and adapted in many ways and there are many ways that the data generated can be aggregated, displayed and analyzed. (source: Foundations of Teaching for Learning 1: Introduction)

In practice – Personal experience

I used this technique a couple of days ago. Specifically, at an unexpected moment, I asked my students to fill a “spot check” out.

The following image is a sample of a completed “spot check”.

spot check

After collecting them, I had a discussion with my students about their answers and specifically about their thoughts and feelings. This overall procedure helped to understand what my students find interesting and meaningful in learning processes and how I could change some of my practices, so that all learners would be engaged in a positive way.


2 responses

  1. Good idea for the spot check, it seems so helpful and amusing. But I wonder how can it works if the students are not honest ?

    1. This is a really good question. In my opinion, before we try this techique, we need to make it clear to our students that this is not a kind of assessment and we fill those papers out for helping them and generally for “discovering” all together our classroom. Perhaps, we could first use this technique in small groups and later in a personal way. Moreover, we could fill the spot check too, so that the students understand that we don’t assess them, but it is an “experiment” that all together do (even their teachers) for making “our” learning process better and better.
      Personally, the moment that my students were filling the spot check out, I was doing the same thing and when we discussed our answers, I read my answers too. They were surprised that I had no problem to show them my answers and they were really willing to discuss without inhibition their opinions, feelings as well as their problems.

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