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Examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques

There are hundreds of variations of classroom assessment techniques. Below are some of the more commonly known techniques:

3-2-1 Format
3-2-1 Format is a quick and simple student writing activity.

Focused Listing
Focused Listing is a quick and simple student writing activity.

Muddiest Point
Muddiest Point is a quick and simple technique where students identify a challenging or confusing concept.

One Minute Paper
Minute paper is an introductory technique for a student writing activity.

Think-Pair-Share
Think-Pair-Share is a quick and easy technique that has students working in pairs to answer questions posed by the instructor.

Concept Mapping
Concept Mapping is an intermediate technique that asks students to create ways of representing and organizing ideas and concepts.

Jigsaw
Jigsaw is an advanced technique where teach each other assigned topics.

Memory Matrix
Memory matrix is an intermediate technique that asks students to create a structure for organizing large sets of information.

Quiz Show
Quiz Show is an intermediate technique that uses a game show format for review sessions.

3-2-1 Format

3-2-1 Format

Basic Strategy

The 3-2-1 format is a quick reflective activity similar to think-pair-share. It encourages students to reflect on a course experience and organize their thoughts and identify areas of confusion or concern.

Why would you use it?

Similar to minute papers, muddiest point, and think-pair-share, the 3-2-1 Format can be a helpful tool for getting students to organize their thoughts, and promote reflection and metacognition. This activity provides an easy way to check for understanding and gauge student interest. It is also an effective way to promote discuss or review material.

When can you use it?

This activity would traditionally be introduced toward the end of a lesson or after a lecture. It could also be used in response to an assigned reading.

How does it work?

In reaction to presented content, students are asked to take a few moments and jot down:

  • 3 ideas or issues from what was presented

  • 2 example or uses for how the ideas could be implemented

  • 1 unresolved area / muddiest point

Students are then asked to share their ideas in pairs or small groups. Use the responses to help guide teaching decisions. Consider areas of curriculum that need to be reviewed again or specific concepts or activities that are most interesting for students.

Alternative versions

  • Use 3-2-1 Format to transition into class discussion.

  • Student can complete 3-2-1 as individuals, pairs, or small groups.

  • Make the 3-2-1 questions content specific (differences, similarities, etc.)

  • Have students focus 3-2-1 on main ideas (most important ideas, supporting details, etc.)

Online options

3-2-1 Format could easily be adapted into an online discussion board activity.  

Focused Listing

Basic Strategy

Focus Listing activity focuses on one concept, term, or topic. Students are asked to provide several ideas related closely with the one concept, term, or topic.

Why would you use?

The purpose of this activity is to help instructors determine what students are able to recall for the main points of a lesson. The preparation and follow-up for a Focused Listing activity is minimal. The Focused Listing activity can help students in several ways:

  • Quickly determine what learners recall as the most important points related to a topic

  • Assess how well learners can describe or define a central point and to discover how well learners are connecting other concepts to the central point of the lesson

  • Gauge the best starting point, make midpoint corrections, and measure the class's progress in learning one specific element of course content

When can you use?

Before, during or after a lesson; works well in classes of all sizes. Focused listings are great follow ups to short presentations during which participants are asked to absorb information that is new and that is vital to the discussion to follow. The listing works well to introduce a topic, as an exercise joining/synthesizing two sets of information (lecture plus follow up reading, two lectures), and as something to return to as a wrap up so that participants can compare before/after thinking.

How does it work?

  1. Select an important topic or concept that's just been studied or is just about to be studied; write it in a word or brief phrase.

  2. Write the word or phrase at the top of a sheet of paper as the heading for a "Focused List" of related terms important to understanding that topic.

  3. Set a limit for either number of items to list (5 to 10) or limit the amount of time (2 to 3 minutes) to list the points.

  4. Test it yourself (keep to your own limits)--write a list of important words and phrases you recall that are related to or included within the heading you wrote down.

  5. Look over your list quickly; add any items you may have left out. Determine if any modifications need to be made to this activity, e.g. number of items required or length of time.

  6. If your test convinces you that the topic is important and well defined have the students complete the exercise. Be sure to increase the time limits you set for yourself, however, since you are the ‘expert’ and students are the ‘novice’ learners.

  7. Collect their anonymous responses and review the answers by sorting them into piles of appropriate or inappropriate to determine how well students are recalling the main points.

  8. At the beginning of the next class session, review with the students the findings of the activity. List the points or ideas you developed and include some of the ideas students provided that were not on your list, but were still relevant.

Alternate versions

  • Use your list as the "master list" and have students compare their lists to it. Look for matches, missing items (on any list), clarification needs, additional teaching and learning opportunities.

  • Assign this as a small group activity

Online Options

  • Focused Listing could easily be adapted into an online discussion board activity or a shared Google document activity.

Muddiest Point

PT Cervical Spine Module

Basic Strategy

Muddiest Point is probably the simplest classroom assessment technique available. It is a quick monitoring technique in which students are asked to take a few minutes to write down the most difficult or confusing part of a lesson, lecture, or reading. It is simple to create and facilitate. In fact, it only takes 15 minutes to collect and scan approximately 100 muddiest points. While it is easy to use, be careful not to over-use this or any single assessment technique. Over using one technique can fatigue students and devalue the process.

Why would you use?

1. You can quickly check for understanding. This assessment gives you a picture of misconceptions and confusion that still exists in the students’ minds.

2. Students can increase their understanding of their own learning. This assessment provides students with a metacognitive opportunity to think about their own learning. This is especially helpful with new information and complicated procedures.

When can you use?

Use this assessment technique any time, after students have had an opportunity for learning to progress them toward the learning target. This technique is especially helpful if students seem to be having difficulty grasping a concept or process.

How does it work?

  1. Determine what feedback you want. Do you want to ask a question that encompasses the entire class session or one self-contained segment? Do you want to ask a questions related to a specific lecture, discussion, or presentation? Figure out what is of most value or where students struggle the most.

  2. Reserve a few minutes at the end of the class session. Leave enough time to ask the question, have students respond, and to collect the responses.

  3. Let students know how much time they will have to answer the question and when you will follow up with the results and provide feedback.

  4. With so many students using laptops and tablets, it is plausible students will not have extra sheets of paper. Plan on distributing slips of paper or index cards for students to write on.

  5. Collect the responses as or before students leave.

  6. Respond to the students' feedback during the next class meeting. Share with students how responses will be used as a guide to plan the next instruction.

Alternate versions

This strategy can be presented in many forms:

  • Follow up a traditional muddiest point exercise by asking students what could be done to help clear up the “muddy points” for them.

  • Use a two column response exercises. One side is labeled “crystal clear” and the other column is labeled “muddiest point”. This alternate version helps students reflect on their own learning as they think about what they do and do not understand.

  • Use muddiest point to review work outside of class (e.g. lab or homework assignment).

Online Options

  • Have students post to a discussion board.

  • In a synchronous (live) online class, students can write on a white-board.

  • Use a shared (open for anonymous responses) google document to collect responses.

One Minute Paper

Basic Strategy

One minute paper is a popular introductory active learning strategy that requires minimal preparation on the part of the instructor. During a one minute paper exercise students are given one minute to write a response to a prompt or question posed by the instructor. Minute papers can segue into a discussion or simply be collected for review by the instructor.

Why would you use it?

1. Minute papers provide immediate feedback and allow quick response to students.

2. This exercise can be easily facilitated for any class size.

3. Allows students who are less vocal to participate.

When can you use it?

This technique is probably best used in lecture or discussion however it can easily be adapted to other settings such as labs, clinicals, or homework assignments. While this technique is flexible it is not universally applicable. Not all learning experiences can be assessed by a technique that asks students to note significant points or open questions. Be cognizant of your goal when choosing a classroom assessment technique.

How does it work?

1. Decide what you want to focus on, where you want students to reflect on a topic.

2. Write Minute Paper prompts that fit your class and meet your goal. The prompts are the heart of one minute papers.

3. Set aside 5-10 minutes to facilitate, as well as time later to discuss the results.

4. Share the question with students.

5. After the chosen topic or activity is completed, hand out scraps of paper or index cards for students to record their response.

6. Let students know how much time they will have, what kinds of responses you are looking for (words, bullets, short sentences), and when they can expect feedback.

7. Collect the responses as or before students leave.

8. Tabulate the responses and make note of useful comments.

9. Respond to the students' feedback during the next class meeting. Share with students how responses will be used as a guide to plan the next instruction.

Sample Minute Paper prompts:

Questions Designed to Assess Student Interests: For you, what interesting questions remain unanswered about today’s topic?

Identifying Perceived Relevance of Course Concepts: During today’s class, what idea(s) struck you as things you could or should put into practice?

Assess Student Attitudes/Opinions: Were there any ideas expressed in today’s class that caused you to reconsider or change your personal? opinions, viewpoints, or values?

Checking Student Comprehension: What did you perceive to be the major purpose or objective of today’s class?

Assessing Conceptual Connections (Cross-Concept Integration): Did you see any relationships between today’s topic and other topics previously covered in this course?

Alternative versions

  • Allow students to compare and discuss their responses before handing them in.

  • Allow small groups to suggest Minute Paper questions. Have members of the group analyze and present the results to the class.

Online options

  • Have students post to a discussion board.

  • In a synchronous (live) online class, students can write on a white-board.

  • Use a shared (open for anonymous responses) google document to collect responses.

Think-Pair-Share

Think Pair Share

Basic Strategy

Think-pair-share can be a great technique for facilitating discussion. It is a quick and simple technique to adopt. Faculty present a question or challenge, students reflect quietly and then partner with someone to discuss.  A think-pair-share session could be 5 to 15 minutes.

Why would you use?

This exercise engages the class with content on multiple levels. It can help organize prior knowledge, deepen the level of content analysis, and improves the quality of student contributions. Think-pair-share is a popular technique because sharing ideas with a peer in a group of two is “low risk” compared to sharing an individual idea with an entire class.

When can you use?

Use think-pair-share when you want students to talk over new ideas or critically think about concepts presented in the lesson. This technique can be easily used ‘on the fly’ and works in small or large classes.

How does it work?

1.  Develop an engaging question or problem, ideally one with many viable potential responses

2. Have a plan for how to present the question (worksheet, PPT slide, etc.) and how you will facilitate students reporting out to the whole group.

3. Pose a question to students.

4. Students reflect on and write brief notes for one minute in response to the question.

5. Students pair up with someone sitting near them and share their answers verbally for two to three minutes. Alternatively, they may also work together to create one best answer.

6.  Randomly choose a few pairs of students to give 30 second summaries of individual or joint answers. 

Alternate versions

  • Ask students to compare and contrast their ideas, reach a consensus, explain why their ideas are different, etc.

  • Give the students the prompt as homework, coming into class prepared to share.

  • Have pairs match up with another nearby pair to share ideas before reporting back to whole class.

Online Options

  • Think-pair-share does not adapt easily to online learning environments. It can be done but requires more work to create groups, private discussion boards, etc.

Concept Mapping

Basic Strategy

Concept maps are drawings or diagrams used to help students organize and represent knowledge of a subject. Concept maps begin with a main idea (or concept) and then branch out to show how that main idea can be broken down into specific topics.

 Concept map

Why would you use?

This activity provides an observable action of the student’s patterns of understanding related to a central idea or concept. Concept mapping serves several purposes:

  • Helps students brainstorm and generate new ideas

  • Encourages students to discover new concepts and the propositions that connect them

  • Allows students to more clearly communicate ideas, thoughts and information

  • Helps students integrate new concepts with older concepts

  • Enables students to gain enhanced knowledge of any topic and evaluate the information

When can you use?

Concept maps require a lot of cognitive work on the part of the student, and a lot of preparation and analysis on the part of the instructor. Be sure you have tested the concept map activity yourself and given the class the appropriate amount of time to complete the activity. Usually this means twice the amount of time it took you, the expert, to complete. This activity is useful in any course with high theoretical content, courses with large amounts of facts and principles.

How does it work?

  1. Select the concept/theme you wish students to use as a starting point.

  2. Create a concept map:

    1. Identify related key words or phrases. Write down words and key phrases.

    2. Rank the concepts (key words) from the most abstract/general to the most concrete/specific.

    3. Cluster concepts that function at similar level of abstraction and those that interrelate closely. Start to determine the ways the various concepts are related to each other and write that on the lines connecting the concepts.

    4. Arrange concepts into a diagram.

    5. Continue identifying the ways the various concepts are related to each other and write that on the lines connecting the concepts.

  3. Add second and third level associations, if appropriate.

  4. Good maps usually result from three to many revisions.

  5. After students have completed the concept maps, present your own example to the students and walk through it with them step-by-step, explaining your thinking as you created the concept map.

Important Consideration for Using Concept Maps

  • Concept mapping can be a very demanding cognitive task for students.

  • Concept maps requires a large amount of time and energy from faculty to formally assess; concept maps are generally not graded.

  • Large classes may be managed easier if concept map assignments are assigned to small groups

Best Practices for Using Concept Maps:

  1. Create your own concept map first, before assigning one to your students.

  2. If students are new to concept maps, students will need training and continual practice. Together as a class, create a simple concept map on a concept everyone is familiar wit. For example, use an easy topic like, “What are birds?”

Alternate versions

  • Use a top down approach, working from general to specific or use a free association approach by brainstorming nodes and then develop links and relationships.

  • Assign a concept map as a small group activity to alleviate anxiety.

  • Extend the activity by having students write an explanatory essay based on their maps.

  • Construct a concept map and then remove all of the concept labels (keep the links!). Ask students to replace the labels in a way that makes structural sense.

  • Create a concept map and then remove concepts from the nodes (about one-third of them). These deleted concepts are placed in a numbered list on the map and students choose among them.

  • Provide a list of concept labels (10 to 20) and ask students to construct their maps using only these labels. The focus here is on the linking relationships, and the evolution of structural complexity of students' knowledge frameworks.

Online Options

  • There are numerous software tools where students can create concept maps digitally.

Jigsaw

Basic Strategy

Jigsaw involves students doing individual research on a subset of a given subject area, and then piecing their research together with other students “to build the whole picture”. Jigsaw exercises challenge students to engage in reciprocal teaching and can be a popular activity for courses that rely on heavy transference of information.

Jigsaw requires a moderate to high amount of faculty preparation and takes a fair amount of class time. Do not overuse this technique, as repeating too often can feel contrived (it is not very flexible). It should be used no more than twice per semester.

Why would you use?

Jigsaw is a variation on a simpler activity in which students come and present directly to their group on a topic of research. By adding the intermediate task of meeting as an “expert group” ensures some quality of ideas and materials. This technique also gives individual students a chance to build confidence in a subject area before presenting to peers.

When can you use?

Jigsaw can be used in a single class session or across multiple sessions.

How does it work?

  1. Identify a concept area (the whole puzzle) which contains roughly 4-6 subtopics (pieces of the puzzle).

  2. Divide the class into teams of 4-6 students (the number of students on a team should be equivalent to the number of subtopics).

  3. Assign each student on the teams a different subtopic. Allow sufficient time for students to “develop expertise”, doing their own reading and research. Jigsaw falls apart if students are not prepared. Assigning questions, reading logs, study guides or reaction papers helps to ensure preparation. Consider asking for a summary of their readings by a certain date.

  4. Students return to class and consult with the same content experts from the other teams.  They are asked to discuss the topic as a group and how best to present it to their respective teams, possibly through creating review sheets / summary guide / examples/ list of resources etc.

  5. Students return to their original teams where they are then asked to present/teach the topic to their team.

  6. Conclude with whole class reflection / discussion.

Listen to Kelly Macauley, Clinical Instructor in Physical Therapy, talk about how she has used this activity in her class:

Kelly’s written instructions (.DOCX)
Kelly’s classroom map (.PPT)

Alternate versions

  • Use as a quiz or exam preparation activity.

  • Combine the technique with presentations.

Online Options

  • Jigsaw is an activity that can be adapted to online learning.

Memory Matrix

Medical terminology course

Basic strategy

Memory Matrix is a simple, two-dimensional table divided into rows and columns. The table is used to organize information and identify relationships in the content. Some cells in the table are intentionally left blank where students are asked to fill in the blank cells, demonstrating their understanding of the content. There is moderate investment of time required on behalf of faculty to create the matrix and then analyze the results.

Why would you use?  

The technique provides a structure for students to organize and synthesize complicated information. This exercise works well with large amounts of content and can simplify complex, dynamic systems of information. Faculty can identify prior or incorrect knowledge.

When can you use?

Memory matrix is simple to implement and easy to use during instruction however there is some up-front preparation that must be completed. Consider content carefully. Content needs to appropriately align with column and row organization. This exercise is effective after lectures, videos, reading assignments, etc.

How does it work?

1. Carefully choose your content topic. Make sure the content can be organized in a table with rows and columns.

2. Create a simple matrix. Make one completed matrix to use as a key. This will make the analysis much easier. Also create a blank matrix for students to fill in.

3. Explain the purpose of the exercise.

4. Let students know how much time they will have, what kinds of responses you are looking for (words, bullets, short sentences), and when they can expect feedback.

5. Handout blank or partially filled matrix. Have students work on in class, individually or in groups. Provide practice matrices or examples if this is the first time you are presenting a memory matrix.

6. Students complete the matrix and hand-in.

7. Review and analyze results

  • Analysis: Scan the completed matrices and compare to your key matrix. correct responses vs incorrect responses - focus on patterns in the responses.

  • Results: Record the number of each correct or incorrect response into an Excel spreadsheet (or any data management system) where data can be reported in a variety of methods. Look for common misconceptions or errors. This could indicate recall problems, difficultly categorizing information, or insufficient teaching focus on a particular topic or category.

8. Provide feedback and clear misconceptions at next class meeting

Alternative versions

  • Cells can be manipulated in any number of ways. For instance, leave the cells blank or fill the cells in and leave the column heading blank.

  • Matrix can be completed by individuals, in pairs, small teams, as a class.

Online options

  • Use Google Spreadsheet to have small groups, or individuals fill cells.

Quiz Show

Basic Strategy

Quiz Show uses quiz game show format (e.g. Jeopardy or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) to rapidly move through a series of questions with students. This strategy is popular for introducing game mechanics (points, competition) into a classroom activity.

Why would you use?

Quiz Show is popular for review sessions for reinforcing important information or  but is usually not considered a good way to introduce content. The game format of a quiz show activity can be to keep students engaged although it should be used in moderation as it lacks authenticity to real world applications of knowledge.

When can you use?

Quiz Show is popular for review sessions before major assessment events. Quiz show could be used in short 5-10 minute segments or could easily fill an hour session.

How does it work?

Present a grid (or list) of questions on a whiteboard or PowerPoint. When crafting questions be mindful of the standard advice on writing multiple choice questions. Depending on class size you would likely divide students into groups. Student can be given a “bell” to ring in, or simply rotate between students. Quiz show is more appropriate for short answer questions not open ended questions.

Alternate versions

  • Students answer individually

  • Use in combination with clickers

  • Students write and submit questions in advance

  • Pub trivia mode: multiple questions in small groups, answered in writing rather than first to buzz in

Online Options

Quiz Show Review does not adapt easily to online learning environments.

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