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Tip #9 | Learning Snapshots: Quick Takes on Student Understanding
Spring 2006

    "Teaching without learning is just talking."
      Patricia Cross and Thomas Angelo
      Classroom Assessment Techniques (1993)

Classroom Assessment Techniques give you a quick picture of what your students have learned and where they need more support. We call them "Learning Snapshots" for short. It can take less than five minutes to do a Learning Snapshot and there's nothing to grade, nothing to prepare and everything to gain.

Use Learning Snapshots to:

    1. Provide instant feedback about students' understanding.
    2. Help students monitor their own learning.
    3. Gather anonymous information.
    4. Create a student-centered learning environment.

Try One or All of These Snapshots

The One-Sentence Review
In the first few minutes of class, ask students to summarize what they remember about a topic from the last class by writing a single sentence that answers the questions, "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" Reassure students that you will not grade their responses. Ask students to share their sentences with a partner and/or aloud. Encourage everyone to chime in to address confusion or misunderstanding.

If you teach a studio class, ask students to write a list of step-by-step instructions for a process or technique

The Muddiest Point
Toward the end of class, ask students to identify the most confusing or "muddiest" concept of the day. Collect all the responses, sort them by categories and use them to structure a review for the next class session.

Translating for a Second Grader
Check in after about 20 minutes of lecture or at the end of class and 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.

Testing Knowledge Without the Test
At the beginning or middle of the class, pass around a large envelope with a question about the course content. Ask students to write an anonymous short answer, put it in the envelope, and pass it on. After class, sort the answers and use them to discuss and clarify concepts at the next class meeting. Students will appreciate the opportunity to "test" their knowledge in a grade-free, anonymous environment.

Student-Created Test Questions
Check in after about 20 minutes of lecture or at the end of class and ask students to review their notes and write one question they would like to see on a test. Invite students to read their questions to the whole class. Then, collect the questions, type them up and redistribute them as a ?study-question' handout.

Learning Snapshots in Online Courses
Use or adapt any of the snapshots above for your online classes, as well. First, explain to students that during the course you will e-mail individual Learning Snapshots to get a quick look at how students are learning. Let students know that they are required to respond to Learning Snapshots but their responses won't be graded. As students respond individually, notice patterns of confusion or misunderstandings and address them in the discussion section of your course.

Resources:

What are Classroom Assessment Techniques? (The National Teaching and Learning Forum):

Other examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques (Iowa State University):