Classroom assessment refers to the process of collecting information about student learning. Classroom assessments help instructors gain information about the extent to which students have mastered course content delivered through lectures.
There are numerous classroom assessment methods. Common to all methods is asking students to demonstrate their knowledge or what they can do with the knowledge they possess.1 It is recommended that instructors use a variety of assessment methods to allow students to best demonstrate their understanding.
The following provides information about a few common assessment methods to consider using in your class to assess student learning and the effectiveness of your lectures.
Encourage students to ask questions during or after your lecture. When students pose questions during class, all students in your course can benefit from the response. However, you should also assure your students that questions are welcome at any time or through different ways such as via email, after a class, telephone. The questions that students ask will inform you of content that may require more attention or a new approach for explanation.
Punctuated lectures are a useful method for gathering information about students’ learning strategies during lectures. After conducting the lecture or a portion of the lecture, provide students with a few minutes to reflect on what they were doing (e.g., taking notes, formulating a question) during the lecture and how these behaviors guided their learning. As Angelo and Cross (1993) noted, punctuated lectures can help promote student engagement during instruction and the development of metacognition (learners’ ability to think about their own thinking). Punctuated lectures provide information to instructors on how they can assist students during lectures such as directing more attention to important content or reviewing a concept for understanding.
Another assessment method for large lecture classes is chain notes. Prior to lecture, provide each student with a notecard on which they will respond to the question you pose to them. After lecture has begun, give the envelope to one student and ask students to circulate it around the room. Develop an open-ended question that calls for a student’s response. For example, “When the chain note reached you, what in particular were you paying attention to?” Then, circulate the envelope during instruction. The envelope systems allows the instructor to collect data about student learning strategies at multiple time points during lecture without disrupting instruction. Students may respond anonymously.
Similar to punctuated lectures, chain notes encourage students to reflect on their listening and learning behaviors. The instructor can then analyze this data to examine patterns of student engagement. Students’ responses can be classified as engaged/not engaged and can be categorized by the content in which students were engaged. The instructor can then use this information to provide the class with feedback about effective listening and learning strategies.
The Minute Paper
A quick method of assessing student learning following lecture is the minute paper. It requires no time to develop and minimal time to administer and analyze. The minute paper asks students to develop a short, written response about what they learned from a lecture and/or what caused difficulty understanding. Instructors review students’ responses, make notes about what was valuable to students, and may choose to reteach course concepts that students frequently identified as unclear.
The minute paper is popular among university faculty members. The minute paper is as beneficial in promoting student reflection as it is for providing information for the instructor.3
Another quick method of assessing student learning following lecture is the one-sentence summary. This method allows instructors to determine if students can summarize a large amount of information in one sentence about a given topic. You can provide students with guidance about how to develop this sentence by asking them to consider the following questions: “Who does what to whom, when, where, how and why?”2 Answers to these questions can then be used to create a single sentence. This exercise is reciprocal by assisting instructors in determining students’ understanding of information presented during lecture and helping students develop the ability to synthesize information. Moreover, the instructor models practices of reading, listening, and synthesizing for the students.
Improving Your Lectures
Classroom assessment can improve your lectures. If you administer an assessment and a large portion of students are struggling in a given area, you can reflect on why students have not acquired the intended knowledge, understanding, or skills from lecture. For example, if you use the one-sentence summary technique and find that few students in your class can identify the most important point of the lecture, you can reiterate this information. To do so, verbally indicate to students the key points from the lecture or you may summarize the idea on a whiteboard. This reflective process provides you with insights about how to adjust instruction in the future.
If students share common misconceptions about a topic, you can reteach the topic and/or use a different instructional strategy to convey the information. If you are having trouble understanding why students may hold misconceptions following instruction, implement an assessment strategy that focuses on capturing information as to why these misconceptions still exist. Ask students to indicate why they responded as they did on the assessment such as a quiz. You may ask students to provide this information after you have analyzed the results from the quiz.
After you have analyzed your classroom assessment data, provide students with information about what you learned by examining their responses (such as reviewing common misconceptions) and explain how you plan to use that information to improve their learning experience. If the sole purpose of a classroom assessment is to improve your teaching, consider administering assessments anonymously to minimize the pressure that students experience to successfully complete the assessment. For example, you may ask students to complete the one-sentence summary without including their names.
(1) Huba, M. E. & Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner-centered assessment on college campuses. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
(2) Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Boss.
(3) Cross, K.P., & Steadman, M.H. (1996). Classroom research: Implementing the scholarship of teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Boss.