A Dozen Learning Snapshots

What? When How? Why
1. Background knowledge assessment

Before starting 
a new unit 
or topic.

At the start of 
the semester

Prepare a few short-answer, open-ended, or multiple-choice questions to probe the students' existing knowledge of that concept or topic. Questions should be carefully phrased since unfamiliar industry jargon can skew your assessment of how well they know the concepts. To out the students' existing knowledge of that concept or topic. This will shape how fast to move as well as keeping to core material or expanding to optional areas.
2. One-Minute Paper

At the end
of class

After a lecture
or demo

Any time during
the semester

Ask students to use a half-sheet of paper or 3x5 and write a response to "The most important thing I learned today and what I understood least." Review before the next class meeting and use to clarify, correct, or elaborate. At the next class, write 1 or 2 student responses on the board to review.
3. Muddiest Poin

At the end
of class

After a lecture
or demo

Any time during
the semester

Like the One-Minute Paper, only ask students to describe what they didn't understand and what they think might help. Same as One-Minute Paper. If many had the same problem, try another approach.
4. Chain Notes

In the middle of
a unit to shape
how you 

At the middle or
end of class to 
provide variety and review

Pass around a large envelope with a question written on it about the class content. Each student writes a short answer on an index card, puts it in the envelope, and passes it on. Sort answers by type of response. At the next class, use patterns to discuss how to understand content more effectively.
5. Application Article

During last 15 minutes of class

Anytime during semester

Have students write a short piece about how a major point applies to a real-world situation. Or, they can write an essay about how a key point applies to their major. Sort articles and pick several to read at the next class, illustrating a range of applications, depth of understanding, and creativity.
6. Student- Generated Test Questions Before midterms, finals, or at the end of a unit. Divide the class into groups and assign each group a topic on which they are each to write a question and answer for the next test. Each student should be assured of getting at least one question right on the test. Use as many of the questions as possible, combining those that are similar.
7. Journals Throughout the semester; gather every few weeks Ask students to keep journals that detail their thoughts about the class. May ask them to be specific, recording only attitudes, values, or self-awareness. Have students turn in the journals several times during the semester so you can chart changes and development.
8. Exam Evaluations Whenever you give a test or quiz Select a test that you use regularly and add a few questions at the end that ask students to evaluate how well the test measures their knowledge or skills. Lets you make changes to the test that are reasonable and track student responses over time.
9. Translating to a 2nd Grader

Any time during the semester

20 minutes into a lecture or demo

Ask students to ‘translate' a concept for a second grader, or a grandfather or someone else who doesn't know anything about the topic. Invite students to read their ‘translations' to the whole class. Students will benefit from each other's responses and you'll have an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings.
10. Graphic Organizers Any time during the semester as an in-class or homework review Students write key words using graphic organizers, such as concept maps, mind maps, outlines, flow charts, and diagrams. Shows prior knowledge about the information in a personal format and their understanding about how topics fit together.
11. "Running Questions" Index Cards

During and after a lecture or demo

Anytime during the semester

Students write key concepts or questions relating to material covered in class. These are written while listening and there is time to go over the questions during class. Can collect afterwards and return later. Use for periodic review times in class or as a tool to organize key ideas.
12. Applying new techniques/ skills in a controlled environment

Early on to practice a new skill

In class or homework

Students practice applying new techniques/skills to a controlled assignment. All students work with the same example. Provides instant and ongoing feedback as to whether the principles or directions can be transferred to a task. Learn by doing.