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Classroom assessment is a practice that provides instructors feedback on what and how much their students are learning. Instructors use the information they gather in this way to measure the effectiveness of their teaching practices, make decisions, and implement changes that result in better student learning.
To gather this feedback, instructors administer assessment techniques which are delivered and collected in class. These can be used at various points during the session depending on the instructor's objectives and the feedback she wishes to receive. For example, a technique used at the beginning of class might gauge students' prior knowledge of the subject matter, allowing the instructor to tailor her content delivery to the specific needs of her audience. Others may be better suited for the middle or the end of the session, helping the instructor identify how well students have grasped the material.
In every case, though, the purpose of this feedback is formative–that is, it should be used to improve the learning environment. Some techniques might be as simple as asking a question and calling for a show of hands. The feedback in this case is immediate and allows the instructor to tailor her presentation of material and activities to the needs of her students on the spot. Other kinds of feedback may be written and collected. In these cases, instructors take the written material back to their offices and review it prior to the next class session, using it to guide their class preparation.
There are a number of assessment techniques that instructors can employ. Some measure students' mastery of complex skills, while others measure their understanding of facts, concepts, and principles. It is important for instructors to be clear about their objectives, what they wish to learn from the assessment, and how they will use the data prior to administering the technique.
We highlight several classroom assessment techniques below that have proven to work well in lecture settings. They are easy to administer, take little class time, and yield powerful results. For other examples of classroom assessment techniques, as well as recommendations on preparing for and using them, see Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (1993).
Many of the active learning strategies that are covered elsewhere in this tutorial can also double as classroom assessment techniques. Brainstorming is one such example, as is another technique closely related to it: focused listing.
Focused listing measures what students do and don't know about a subject, as well as the network of ideas related to it. This technique is very adaptable. It lends itself well to multiple disciplines and can be used at the beginning, middle, or end of a class session. When to use focused listing depends on the kind of feedback the instructor wants. For instance, individuals who wish to assesses students' prior knowledge of important terms, concepts, or ideas would administer the technique at the beginning of class or as an introduction to new content. The data, then, might suggest a starting point for the lecture or a focus for it. Using focused listing in the middle of a lesson might provide feedback that the instructor can use during the lesson itself, while focused listing at the end of a class might measure how well students have grasped the material and the effectiveness of the instructor's teaching methods.
Focused listing is easy to implement via PowerPoint. Simply create a slide with a focal concept and brief instructions, setting aside a minute or so for students to construct their lists. Some instructors ask students question about the content of their lists as a way getting immediate feedback, while others collect the lists and review them after class.
This classroom assessment technique helps instructors determine what students think about information in the course, including their misconceptions, attitudes, biases, and values. Like focused listing, it is easy to implement and can be adapted for many different purposes and situations.
The technique is well suited to measuring student opinions, so it's often used by instructors to "test the waters" before introducing controversial topics. A quick poll of students can help instructors decide how best to approach and present topics, while a poll afterwards can help instructors determine whether student attitudes have changed as a result of the lesson.
The simplest kind of classroom poll is one in which students raise their hands in response to a question. This technique works in classes large or small, and it is perhaps the easiest to implement. Other variations on this technique are more formal, with students casting ballots and instructors aggregating the results. In both cases, the poll question is introduced on a PowerPoint slide at the appropriate point in the presentation.
Like all classroom assessment techniques, the instructor should consider carefully what he hopes to gain by using classroom polling, when he plans to use it, and how he will act on the information received.
The two minute paper is most appropriate for use at the end of a class session, where it measures how well students have learned material up to that point. It works well in classes of all sizes and is extremely easy to implement, making it a good classroom assessment technique for large lecture sections.
There are many variations on this technique. Some instructors ask students to summarize the day's lecture, others ask them to state the most important thing they learned during the session, while others ask students to state questions that they have. In each case, the instructor is provided valuable information that can help determine what students have learned and how best to proceed in subsequent meetings.
To implement the technique, instructors should plan at least two or three minutes for the exercise. Prepare a PowerPoint slide with the instructions and the question students should address. Have them write on a sheet of paper or on a 3" x 5" note card, and collect students' responses as they leave the room.
Like the two minute paper, the muddiest point technique is best used at the end of a topic–before moving to new material–or at the end of a class session. The exercise asks students to write down one thing about the day's material that they simply don't understand. By collecting these, instructors are able to gauge how successfully they taught the material as well as what they may have to revisit before moving on to new territory.
This classroom assessment technique is easy to use and yields powerful results, making it a favorite of instructors in large and small classes. It can be completed in as little as one or two minutes, and it lends itself to every discipline.
To administer the assessment, create a PowerPoint slide at the end of your presentation that asks, "What is the muddiest point in today's material?" Ask students to respond on paper or note cards. Some instructors ask students for their responses verbally before the end of class, spending the remaining time in the period to answer the questions. Others collect the papers and address the questions via email or at the beginning of the next session.
Please feel free to download a PowerPoint presentation of these 4 slides (ppt).