Course Design and Assessment

Assessment Techniques

Classroom Assessment Techniques
Angelo and Cross (1993)

Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge and Skills

Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding

  • Background knowledge Probe At the first class meeting, many college teachers ask students for general information on their level of preparation, often requesting that students list courses they have already taken in the relevant field. This CAT is designed to collect much more specific, and more useful, feedback on students' prior learning. Background Knowledge Probes are short, simple questionnaires prepared by instructors for use at the beginning of a course, as the start of a unit or lesson, or prior to introducing an important new topic. A given Background Knowledge Probe may require students to write short answers, to circle the correct responses to multiple-choice questions, or both.
  • Focused Listing focuses students' attention on a single important term, name, or concept from a particular lesion or class session and directs them to list several ideas that are closely related to that "focus point."
  • Misconception/Preconception Check Focused Listing and Background Knowledge Probes are simple techniques for gathering information on what students already know in order to determine effective starting points for instruction. The Misconception/Preconception Check also assess students' prior knowledge, but with a twist. Its focus is on uncovering prior knowledge or beliefs that may hinder or block further learning.
  • Empty Outlines The name of this technique is self-explanatory. The instructor provides students with an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class presentation or homework assignment and gives them a limited amount of time to fill in the blank spaces. To help students better organize and learn course content, many instructors already provide outlines of their lectures at the beginning or end of class sessions. In our experience, however, fewer teachers use the outline format to assess students' learning of that same content.
  • Memory Matrix is simply a two-dimensional diagram, a rectangle divided into rows and columns used to organize information and illustrate relationships. In a Memory Matrix, the row and column headings are given, but the cells, and the boxes within, are left empty. When students fill in the blank cells of the Memory Matrix, they provide feedback that can be quickly scanned and easily analyzed.
  • Minute Paper To the best of our knowledge, no other Classroom Assessment Techniques has been used more often or by more college teachers than the Minute Paper. This versatile techniques also knows as the One-Minute Paper and the Half-Sheet Response provides a quick and extremely simple way to collect written feedback on student learning. To use the Minute Paper, an instructor stop class two or three minutes early and asks students to respond briefly to some variation on the following two questions: "What was the most important thing you learning during this class?" and "What important question remains unanswered?" Students then write their responses on index cards or half-sheets of scrap paper hence the "half-Sheet Response" and hand them in.
  • Muddiest Point is just about the simplest Classroom Assessment Technique imaginable. It is also remarkably efficient, since it provides a high information return for a very low investment of time and energy. The technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: "What was the muddiest point in ___?" The focus on the Muddiest Point assessment might be a lecture, a discussion, a homework assignment, a play, or a film.

Assessing Skill in Analysis and Critical Thinking

  • Categorizing Grid is the paper-and-paper equivalent of sorting objects in a warehouse and putting like ones together in the right bins. Students are presented with a grid containing two or three important categories super ordinate concepts they have been studying along with a scrambled list of subordinate terms, images, equations, or other items that belong in one or another of those categories. Learners are then given a very limited time to sort the subordinate terms into the correct categories on the gird.
  • Defining Features Matrix requires students to categorize concepts according to the presence (+) or absence (-) of important defining features, thereby providing data on their analytic reading and thinking skills.
  • Pro and Con Grid At one time or another, most people have jotted down quick lists of pros and cons to help them think more clearly about a pressing decision. The Pro and Con Grid turns that familiar decision-making exercise into a simple Classroom Assessment Techniques with many possibilities.
  • Content, Form, and Function Outlines this CAT also is called "What, How, and Why Outlines." To respond to it, the student carefully analyzes the "what" (content), "how" (form), and "why" (Function) of a particular message. That message may be a poem, a newspaper story, a critical essay, a billboard, a magazine advertisement, or a television commercial. The student writes brief notes answering the "what, how, and why" questions in an outline format that can be quickly read and assessed.
  • Analytic Memos This is a simulation exercise. It requires students to write a one- or two-page analysis of a specific problem or issue. The person for whom the memo is being written is usually identified as an employer, a client, or a stakeholder who needs the student's analysis to inform decision making.

Assessing Skill in Synthesis and Creative Thinking

  • One-Sentence Summary This technique challenges students to answer the questions "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" about a given topic and then to synthesize those answers into a single informative, grammatical, and long summary sentence.
  • Word Journal prompts a two-part response. First, the students summarize a shot text in a single word. Second, the student writes a paragraph or two explaining why he or she chose that particular word to summarize the text. The completed response to the Word Journal is an abstractor a synopsis of the focus text.
  • Approximate Analogies To respond to the Approximate Analogies assessment technique, students simply complete the second half of an analogy A is to B as X is to Y for which their instructor has supplied the first half (A is to B). Consequently, the student can respond to this CAT in as few as two words. For the purposes of Classroom Assessment, student responses need not always display the rigor required of analogies in formal logic of mathematics; therefore, we call these analogies "approximate."
  • Concept Maps are drawings or diagrams showing the mental connections that students make between a major concept the instructors focuses on and other concepts they have learned. An analogy would be to ask students to draw a map of the area in twenty-mile radius around Boston, putting in only the features they regard as most important. To prompt students to make Concept Maps, we might ask them to sketch the important features of the "geography" around major concepts such as democracy, racism, art, or free trade.
  • Invented Dialogues By inventing dialogues, students synthesize their knowledge of issues, personalities, and historical periods into the form of a carefully structured illustrative conversation. There are tow levels of "invention" possible with this technique. On the first level, students can create Invented Dialogues by carefully selecting and weaving together actual quotes from primary sources. On the second, more challenging level, they may invent reasonable quotes that fit the character of the speakers and the context.
  • Annotated Portfolios In the find and applied arts, assessment of portfolios is a common and well-accepted practice. Painters, photographers, architects, and graphical artists as well as orthodontists, plastic surgeons, and fashion models submit select samples of their work to potential employers, admissions committees, galleries, and foundations. Fiction writers, poets, composers, and journalists also use portfolios of their work. In a somewhat different though related way, academic programs that grand credit to adult students for experiential learning often require portfolios of personal narratives, usually supplemented by supporting documentation. Annotated Portfolios used for Classroom Assessment contain a very limited number of examples of creative work, supplemented by the students' own commentary on the significance of those examples.

Assessing Skill in Problem Solving

  • Problem Recognition Tasks present students with a few examples of common problem types. The students' task is to recognize and identify the particular type of problem each example represents.
  • What's the Principle? After students figure out what type of problem they are dealing with, they often must then decide what principle or principles to apply in order to solve the problem. This CAT focuses on that second step in problem solving. It provides students with a few problems and asks them to state the principle that best applies to each problem.
  • Documented Problem Solving To become truly proficient problem solvers, students need to learn to do more than just get correct answers to textbook problems. At some point, they need to become aware of how they solved those problems and how they can adapt their problem-solving routines to deal with messy, real-world problems. The Documented Problem Solutions technique prompts students to keep tack of the steps they take in solving a problem to "show and tell" how they worked it out. By analyzing these detailed protocols in which each solution step is briefly explained in writing teachers can gain valuable information on their students' problem-solving skills.
  • Audio- and Videotaped Protocols A/V Protocols are CATs that edge over into Classroom Research. Indeed, protocols of this sort are commonly used in formal educational and psychological research on problem solving and metacognition. Even the simplest application of this technique is likely to be more time-consuming and complicated than any other in this handbook; however, it can provide a wealth of useful information to teacher and student alike. By studying and audio or video recording of a student talking and working through a process of solving a problem, teachers and students can get very close to an "inside view" of the problem-solving process.

Assessing Skill in Application and Performance

  • Directed Paraphrasing In many fields, particularly in the professions and the service sector, success depends on one's ability to translate highly specialized information in to language that clients or customers will understand. Directed Paraphrasing is an assessment techniques designed to assess and help develop that valuable skill. In this CAT, students are directed to paraphrase part of a lesson for a specific audience and purpose, using their own words.
  • Applications Cards After students have heard or read about an important principle, generalization, theory, or procedure, the instructor hands out an index card and asks them to write down at least one possible, real-world application for what they have just learned.
  • Student-Generated Test Questions Most faculty discover early often as graduate teaching assistants that one of the best ways to find out how well they are teaching is to prepare test questions and model answers. This technique gives students the benefit of that experience early on and in small doses.
  • Human Tableau or Class Modeling this technique is quite a departure from the norm. Unlike most of the CATs, which elicit paper-and pencil responses, students respond to the Human Tableau or Class Modeling techniques with their minds and their bodies. Groups of students create "living" scenes or model processes to show what they know. For example, students might pose as the figures in a painting, reenact a Druid ritual at Stonehenge, or model the operation of the fuel system in an automobile engine.
  • Paper or Project Prospectus In this context, a prospectus is a brief, structured first-draft plan for a term paper or term project. The Paper Prospectus prompts students to think through elements of the assignment, such as the topic, purpose, intended audience, major questions to be answered, basic organization, and time and resources required. The Project Prospectus, on the other hand, may focus on tasks to be accomplished, skills to be improved, and products to be developed.

Techniques for Assessing Learner Attitudes, Values, and Self-Awareness

Assessing Students' Awareness of Their Attitudes and Values

  • Classroom Opinion Polls Many faculty already use de facto opinion pooling in their classes when they ask students to raise their hands to indicate agreement or disagreement with a particular statement. This simple technique builds on that kind of informal pooling, providing more anonymity for students and more honest and accurate data for faculty.
  • Double-entry Journals Students begin Double-Entry Journals by noting the ideas, assertions, and arguments in their assigned course readings that they find most meaningful and/or most controversial. These notes on the text are the first half of the Double-Entry Journal. The second entry explains the personal significance of the passage selected and responds to that passage. In this way, students engage in a dialogue with the text, exploring their reactions to the reading.
  • Profiles of Admirable Individuals This straightforward technique requires that students write a brief, focused profile of an individual in a field related to the course whose values, skills, or actions they greatly admire. For example, each student in a social work course might be asked to write a one-page profile of a social worker whom that student particularly admires.
  • Everyday Ethical Dilemmas developmental psychologists, such as Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan, have long explored and evaluated young people's responses to ethical dilemmas in order to understand their moral and ethical decision-making and development. Everyday Ethical dilemmas bring that inquiry into the college classroom, albeit on a very limited scale. In this CAT, students are presented with an abbreviated case study that poses and ethical problem related to the discipline or profession they are studying. Students respond briefly and anonymously to these cases, and faculty analyze the responses in order to understand the students' values.
  • Course-Related Self-Confidence Surveys In many instances, individuals who are generally self-confident may lack confidence in their abilities or skills in a specific context for example, in their quantitative skills or their ability to speak in public. It is this type of domain and even course-specific self-confidence that these surveys assess. Course-Related Self-Confidence Surveys, then, consist of a few simple questions aimed at getting a rough measure of the students' self-confidence in relation to a specific skill or ability.
  • Focused Autobiographical Sketches At one time or another, most college students have been asked to write personal statements or autobiographical essays. Such written self-portraits are often a requir3ed part of applications for admission and for scholarships, for example. College admissions and scholarship selection committees routinely assess these statements to make decisions about their authors. The Focused Autobiographical Sketch is simply a shorter, more specific version of these familiar tasks. In this technique, students are directed to write a one- or two-page autobiographical sketch focused on a single successful learning experience in their past an experience relevant to learning in the particular course in which the assessment technique is used.
  • Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklist These are brief, teacher-made versions of the commercial interest and skills inventories long used by guidance and career counselors. Teachers create checklists of topics covered in their courses and skills strengthened by or required for succeeding in those courses. Students rate their interest in various topics, and assess their levels of skill or knowledge in those topics, by indicating the appropriate responses on the checklist.
  • Goal Ranking and Matching This is a simple procedure that many faculty have adapted to use in the first or second day of class. It takes only a few minutes for student to list a few learning goals they hope to achieve through the course and to rank the relative importance of those goals. If time and interest allow, students can also estimate the relative difficulty of achieving their learning goals. The instructor then collects student lists and matches them against his or her own course goals.
  • Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning This is one of the few CATs in this collection that require the faculty who use them to adopt specific theoretical frameworks for learning. Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning prompts students to describe their general approaches to learning, or their learning styles, by comparing themselves with several different profiles and choosing those that, in their opinion, most closely resemble them. Since there are a number of ways to describe learning styles and ways of learning, faculty have to choose their own set of profiles to use in assessing students.

Assessing Course-Related Learning and Study Skills, Strategies, and Behaviors

  • Productive Study-Time Logs are simply thumbnail records that students keep on how much time they spend studying for a particular class, when they study, and now productively they study at various times of the day or night.
  • Punctuated Lectures This technique requires students and teachers to go through five steps: listen, stop, reflect, write, and give feedback. Students begin by listening to a lecture or demonstration. Then, after a portion of the presentation has been completed, the teacher stops the action. For a quiet moment, the students reflect on what they were doing during the presentation and how their behavior while listening may have helped or hindered their understanding of that information. They then write down any insights they have gained. Finally, they give feedback to the teacher in the form of short, anonymous notes.
  • Process Analysis Whereas Productive Study-Time Logs focus on how much time students spend in doing academic work, this technique focuses students' attention on the process on how thy do their academic work. Process Analysis requires that students keep records of the actual steps thy take in carrying out a representative assignment and asks them to comment on the conclusions they draw about their approaches to that assignment.
  • Diagnostic Learning Logs are essentially limited, tightly focused versions of the academic journals many teachers already use. In these logs, students keep records of each class or assignment. When responding to class sessions, students write one list of the main points covered that they understood and a second list of points that were unclear. For assignments, students record problems encountered or errors made, as well as excellent and successful responses. At regular intervals, the students reflect on, analyze, and summarize the information they have collected on their own learning. They then diagnose their strengths and weaknesses as learners and generate possible remedies for problems.

Techniques for Assessing Learner Reactions to Instruction

Assessing Learner Reactions to Teachers and Teaching

  • Chain Notes To respond to Chain Notes, students in a lecture course pass around a large envelope on which the teacher has written one question about the class. The students have all been given index cards beforehand. When the envelope reaches a student, he or she spends less than a minute writing a response to the question, then drops the card in the envelope and passes it on. This CAT results in a rich, composite record of each individual student's reactions to the class in action. In this way, Chain Notes allow teachers a view of their class through all their students' eyes.
  • Email Feedback This offers faculty a good alternative to the usual paper-and-pencil CATs. The instructor poses a question to the class, via email, about his or her teaching, and invites student responses. Students respond to the email question.
  • Teacher-Designed Feedback Forms Standardized teacher evaluation forms are widely used, in part because they are easily administered and because they yield data that are easily coded and analyzed. In addition, the information from various administrations of the same evaluation form can be compared over tie. The questions on standardized forms, however, are often too general to provide the detailed information that faculty need for improving their teaching. And it often takes months to find out the results. Faculty can benefit from the advantages of evaluation forms and collect the specific information they need by preparing short, simple, course-specific evaluation forms. These feedback forms contain anywhere from three to seven questions in multiple-choice, Likert-scale, or short fill-in answer formats.
  • Group Instructional Feedback Technique these techniques has many names and many variations, but they all center on getting student responses to three questions related to their learning in the class. However they are worded, these three questions basically ask, "What works? What doesn't? What can be done to improve it?" In an ideal administration of the Group Instructional Feedback Technique (GIFT), someone other than the teacher quickly pools students on these questions, determines which are the most frequent responses, summarized them, and then reports back to the instructor. This feedback is a GIFT in two senses. First, it is already at least partially summarized and analyzed by the time it reaches the instructor. And second, it allows the instructor to see his or her course through the eyes of a detached but sympathetic observer. If no outside "information gatherer" is available, instructors can collect useful data from their own classes by giving students more responsibility in the process and adopting a few safeguards.
  • Classroom Assessment Quality Circles Quality Control Circles, originally a Japanese management technique for involving teams of workers and managers more directly in industrial planning and problem solving, have been modified and applied to a variety of organizations in the United States during the past fifteen years. Impressed by the effectiveness of the Quality Circle approaches used in many U.S., companies and governmental agencies, a number of college instructors have recently begun experimenting with classroom applications. This CAT draws inspiration most directly from educational adaptations of Quality Control Circles. In the application of the approach, however, the focus is on involving groups of students in structured and ongoing assessment of course materials, activities, and assignments.

Assessing Learner Reactions to Class Activities, Assignments, and Materials

  • RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Comment, and Connect) This is a modular Classroom Assessment Technique. Teachers can use the whole thing or select individual components to administer. When the whole RSQC2 is used, this five-step protocol guides students quickly through simple recall, summary, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis exercises focusing on a previous class section.
  • Group-Work Evaluations These forms are simple questionnaires used to collect feedback on students' reactions to cooperative learning (where students work in structured groups toward an agreed-upon learning goal) and study groups.
  • Reading Rating Sheets are short, simple assessment forms that students fill out in response to their assigned course readings.
  • Assignment Assessment Course assignments, from daily homework to term papers, provide students with the practice that allows them to learn and apply the material presented in class. Other CATs in this handbook focus students' attention on how they carry out course assignments. Assignment Assessment ask student to consider the value of these assignment to them as learners.
  • Exam Evaluations Students view tests and examinations as critical indicators of faculty expectations; as a result, faculty can use tests and exams to direct student learning. All too often, however, the learning function of testing is overlooked. This simple technique allows teachers to examine both what students think they are learning from exams and tests and students' evaluations of the fairness, appropriateness, usefulness, and quality of tests or exams.

Angelo, T.A., & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers

©2009 Samford University - Maintained by the CTLS