Review as a teaching stratgy

Teaching strategies

Review as a teaching strategy: the tail of all effective teaching programs

Reviews – an information seeking-activity (other than assessments) use to diagnose a student’s progress after a series of activities or lessons. High-performing students review their own learning.

A education support worker assisting a group of students using a tablet.

Reviews are a teaching and learning strategy that’s found in every classroom. Experienced teachers of all subjects understand the importance of reviews. They are a cornerstone strategy of every effective teaching program and are regarded as an essential component of the learning process.

Reviews link past learning to future learning – they are a staging area to regroup and they provide a springboard for the next step in the learning sequence.

A review is a macro, top-down look at student learning so far – a time to take stock on where the class is at – a pause to look at the learning process: what has worked, what hasn’t, and what needs fixing. Reviews take stock of recent learning in relation to the end learning goals. They consider the big picture and help to identify gaps in students’ understanding and skills. Reviews also link past learning to future learning – they are a staging area to regroup and they provide a springboard for the next step in the learning sequence. Unfortunately however, busy and inexperienced teachers often make the mistake of skipping review activities due to a perceived lack of time, curriculum pressures or other reasons.

Reviews should be conducted at various stages throughout the teaching and learning process. Experienced teachers schedule reviews at natural end points such as at the very end of a lesson, day, week or term. Reviews are common throughout lessons as well, particularly when the teachers want to consolidate an important learning point before moving to a new activity or topic. The most common type of review is the one conducted at the end of each lesson. This type of review has several purposes:

  1. to summarise what was learnt today (the main points)
  2. to reinforce anything that was tricky or challenging
  3. to check for understanding and to find gaps
  4. to allow for final questions, suggestions or comments
  5. to consider the lesson’s goals in the light of student performance
  6. to discuss metacognitive skills – what worked, what didn’t, hints and tips
  7. to identify future learning and strategies
  8. to set homework (such as flipped learning activities).

Point 2 above can take up most of the time allocated for this type of review – it can in fact take an entire lesson in some cases where a level of understanding must be achieved before moving on and one or more issues are identified. Such issues should be addressed using the most effective teaching strategy: practice tasks might be set for homework; a class discussion might unveil new ways of doing something or thinking about a concept; or the teacher might model worked examples on the board.

This final activity can help students who are on the cusp of the ‘light-bulb’ moment where processes, concepts or ideas are about to fall into place.

The review is a final chance for the teacher to achieve the lesson’s goals before moving to the next learning goal. This final activity can help students who are on the cusp of the ‘light-bulb’ moment where processes, concepts or ideas are about to fall into place. For these learners, the review consolidates their learning and ensures that they are prepared and armed with the necessary skills and knowledge for the next challenge. In other words, the review activity is often where ‘the penny drops’ so to speak. Skipping the review can therefore be devastating to student learning.

Hint: an end-of-lesson review typically takes about 4-10 minutes. Ensure you leave enough time, so you don’t have to rush. This applies to all lessons whether whole-of-class, small group or one-on-one.

There are several other types of reviews that you can add to your teaching repertoire. For example, experienced teachers regularly ‘have a chat’ with one or more students as they exit the class. They might even ask a student to stay back for a few minutes to discuss their progress, asking questions such as ‘Did you get what we were talking about earlier?’

A whole-of-class end-of-lesson review may sound like this:

‘Okay everyone, we’re almost done for today, time for a quick review and summary. The goals of this lesson were 3 things if you remember back to the start. Anyone want to tell me what they were? Any other feedback please? How did everyone go with their measurements? Everyone seemed to have that down pat. So, what about the area of a circle – anyone need help there? Pretty easy hey? Okay, some had a few issues so let’s do a quick one on the board – Sarah tell me quickly how to work this out – what is the first thing I need to do? As you can see, you don’t need to be good at maths for this, just follow the process – always learn and follow the process – if you’re confused – think back to the process – write it out maybe (metacognitive skills). Any questions on that or anything else? Okay, so I think we did really well today. Well done everyone and thank you for working so hard – I am pleased with how everyone improved today. At home I want everyone to create 3 circle questions like Q3 and 4 in your book and then work out the area – it should take you no more than 5 minutes. Next lesson we’ll check them and then we’ll begin looking at the volume of pyramids. Alex, can you please stay back for 30 seconds as I noticed you did something a few times that we can easily fix. Desks, chairs and floor neat, straight and tidy…yes…okay, goodbye everyone and be safe.’

In this example, the teacher:

  1. considered the how the lesson went overall – what worked and what didn’t
  2. considered feedback from students
  3. found gaps and used worked examples to fill them
  4. tactfully identified a student who needed one-to-one support
  5. explicitly taught metacognitive skills (applying processes)
  6. evaluated student performance/understanding in light of the lesson’s goals
  7. set homework
  8. linked to future learning
  9. built confidence and self-esteem by showing students how they met micro-goals.

About the author

Image of the managing director of ITAC.


Adam Green is an advisor to government, a registered teacher, an instructional designer and a #1 best selling author. He is completing a Doctor of Education and was previously head of department for one of the country’s largest SAER (students at educational risk) schools. Adam is managing director of ITAC, an accredited training provider for thousands of teacher aides every year.

Source: Teaching Skills and Strategies for the Modern Classroom: 100+ research-based strategies for both novice and experienced practitioners. Amazon #1 best seller in the category of Classroom Management.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to check his article for accuracy, information may be outdated, inaccurate or not relevant to you and your location/employer/contract. It is not intended as legal or professional advice. Users should seek expert advice such as by contacting the relevant education department, should make their own enquiries, and should not rely on any of the information provided.


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