A Few Examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques
Wondering if your students are learning course concepts? Here are a few examples of classroom assessment techniques that you can use to collect data from your students in order to help you think about how to improve your teaching. You will notice that techniques at the beginning of the list are fairly general and easy to use. Techniques later on the list are more specific, more complex, and likely to require more time for you and for your students.
Minute paper: Give students three to five minutes to answer two questions: (1) “What was the most important thing you learned __?” (you fill in the blank: during today’s class, while doing the homework, while reading the assignment, etc.), and (2) “What important question remains unanswered?”
Students hand in their answers before they leave class. Use this information to find out if students are understanding the material in the same way that you intend them to. If they’re not, this information will help you make changes in what you present or how you present it.
Muddiest point: This technique is similar to the Minute Paper. It follows the same procedures, but focuses on what students DON’T understand. Near the end of class, ask students, “What was the muddiest point in __?” (you fill in the blank: today’s class, this week’s lecture, the reading assignment, etc.)
Allow students 2-3 minutes to write their answers on an index card or piece of paper, which they hand in to you before they leave. Use this information to help you decide what to emphasize or how much time to spend when you review material with students in future sessions.
Focused Lists: Identify a key point or concept that you expect students to know, and ask them to make a list of words and ideas associated with it. Give them a time limit (3-5 minutes) or an item limit (5-10 items), and collect their lists when they are done.
Use this information to help you understand how well students know and use the common vocabulary of the subject you are studying, to see what concepts they associate with one another, or to check their preconceptions before you introduce a topic in detail.
Defining Features Matrix: Ask students to distinguish concepts in terms of a single set of features. List the features on the side of the page, and the concepts across the top; ask the students to indicate (+) or (-) under each concept to show the presence or absence of each feature.
Use this information to help you determine students’ grasp of apparently similar concepts which may be easily confused with one another, or of apparently unrelated concepts which may share important characteristics.
Application cards: Ask students to write one possible real-world application of a theory or concept that has recently been covered. Use this information to see how thoroughly students understand and appreciate the importance of relatively abstract information that have been presented in class. Collect the cards directly, or if you have more time, allow small groups of students to compare their applications and comment on one another’s before they hand them in.
NOTE: Students who come up with poor or incorrect applications are likely to remember and learn those bad examples unless they receive feedback and examples of good applications. Other students’ applications might provide useful good examples for later class discussions.
Feedback forms: Like the forms commonly used for Student Evaluations and other opinion surveys, prepare your own brief survey focused on specific information that will be useful to you. Possible areas to focus on include class activities, assignments, quizzes, and the use of office hours.
Like other classroom assessment techniques, maintain a narrow focus on issues or concerns that will be useful for you. Use this information to quickly assess easily measurable features of what happens in your classroom (for example, satisfaction with the amount of time spent discussing the homework, perceived usefulness of small group activities, etc.).
Student-generated test questions: Ask students to prepare for an upcoming test by writing possible questions which they think could be on the test. By seeing what information they emphasize as most important for the test, you will see how they perceive what you are trying to teach them. Use this information to help you choose what to emphasize in review sessions (for example, if students are failing to notice some things that are very important). You can also use students’ questions to make a practice test. (Some instructors even use their students’ questions on the actual test.)
Writing-To-Learn projects: Students often turn in written projects for a grade. However, if you only collect their written work at the end of the term, it’s too late to use the insights that you gain from their work to help them improve their learning. Instead, collect early (ungraded) drafts of written work, learning journals, or other short written comments from students in order to get information about what they are learning and how they are organizing the information.
NOTE: If students do written work for you, they usually expect written feedback from you about what they have written. They probably will not appreciate taking time to write things for you if they don’t get written responses, especially because they’re not receiving grades for this work.
Written by: Tasha Souza, Humboldt State University, ELIXR Faculty Development Lead
Angelo, T. & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Astin, A.W. (1991). Assessment for Excellence. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press.
Davis, B. (1993). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.