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Stages of Understanding: Use


Stage 2: Use

Success in the Use stage is demonstrated by students being able to use what they know in completing exercises and activities relating to what they have learned in stage 1.  As with the Know stage, student products in this category can be measured against an objectively correct answer.

Equivalent Stages: Bloom’s Understand/Apply, Webb’s Skills and Concepts, Costa’s Text Implicit


Gradations Within the Stage

Structured application (approaching mastery):  At this stage students are able to use and apply what they have learned within a circumscribed framework or with guidance from a teacher or others.  For instance, a series of math problems on a page asking students to use the Pythagorean Theorem to find missing sides of various right triangles.

Selected application (skill required for mastery):  Students freely select the best information to draw from in order to solve a particular problem by using particular knowledge, skills, or frameworks.  For instance, solving a word problem that calls for students to identify that successfully solving the problem requires finding a missing side from a right triangle, and then using the Pythagorean Theorem to solve that problem.

Understanding (skill required for mastery):  Students are able to articulate what they are to do and why they make a particular choice in a situation calling for application.  While the what portion of this criterion can be assessed objectively, the why portion calls for a subjective response.  

In this stage, it is important to remember that there may be multiple, equally valid methods of arriving at the same solution.  A student using a different way to get to a correct answer may be demonstrating his or her understanding (or may possibly have skipped ahead to surpass and opened a path to new knowledge).


Sources of Authority

As with Stage 1, authoritative sources of information for the Use category of learning are brought to the student through the teacher or texts.  Students do not draw from their own experiences or introduce their own data. Instead, there is one answer that experts would agree to be objectively correct.   


Character/Nature of Learning

As in Stage 1, learning at this stage is source-dependent, however student learning may build with repeated application.


Character/Nature of Assessment

Student progress in this stage may be quantitatively measured between and across student groups and may rely on basic qualitative measures (such as basic rubrics) that are readily quantifiable.  An example of this is student demonstration of understanding.



  • Academic vocabulary

  • Finding patterns

  • Comparison

  • Context

  • Use of formulas or procedures

  • Making and supporting a simple claim based on objective evidence.