Tip #2| How Do I Know My Students Are Learning?
Use Learning Snapshots to provide instant feedback about what your students are learning. Learning Snapshots also create an active learning environment and help students monitor their own learning.
Find out what students are getting—or not getting—out of lectures, demos and assigned readings by using the following Learning Snapshots:
Make Use of the First Five Minutes of Class
As soon as you arrive, write a provocative question or simple task on the board related to the content you covered in previous session. For example:
- Post an image. Ask, who is the audience for this image? What are three clues that led you to that conclusion?
- Write a list of step-by-step instructions for the process or technique we learned during the last session.
- Write three questions you have about last week’s reading.
Expect students to respond in writing as soon as they enter the room. Once class officially begins allow 2-3 more minutes to generate ideas and a few minutes more to share their responses aloud in small or large groups. (You can check attendance during this time.) Reassure students that you won’t grade their responses. Encourage everyone to chime in to address confusions or misunderstandings.
Translating for a Second Grader
After about 20 minutes of lecture/demo or before the end of class, stop and ask students to explain a concept as if for a second grader, or a grandfather, or someone else who doesn't know anything about the topic. Invite students to read their explanations to the whole class. Students will benefit from each other's responses and you'll have an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings on the spot.
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 or during the break, sort the answers and use them to discuss and clarify concepts in 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.
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.
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.
More about Learning Snapshots (AKA Classroom Assessment Techniques)
More Classroom Assessment Techniques:
Angelo. T. A. and Cross K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass. (You’ll find this book in the AAU library.)
Other examples from Iowa State University