Classroom Assessment and Research

Through close observation, collection of feedback, and design of experiments, instructors can determine a great deal about how students learn from various teaching approaches. Classroom assessment and research involves a context-specific investigation into how various teaching methods affect student learning in order to improve instruction. The following techniques are some ways to begin:

Focused Listing determines what students recall as the most important points related to a particular topic. With this technique, an instructor selects a topic recently covered in class and describes it in a word or short phrase. Both the instructor and the students write a list of items that relate to the word or phrase. The instructor’s list can be used as a master to compare to students’ lists. The data collected from this technique can be analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively.

Concept Maps provide observable and assessable records of students’ conceptual schemata. Instructors choose a concept to use as a stimulus or starting point for the concept map. After brainstorming individually, instructors and students write down terms and phrases related to the concept and then draw their own concept maps. Within the maps, primary, secondary, and even tertiary associations should be identified. The instructor’s map can serve as a master copy for comparison in analyzing the data collected from this technique. A wide collection of resources regarding concept mapping is available online.

Dual-Viewpoint Skills Portraits require students to assess their level of development in course-related skills from more than one point of view. For this technique, an instructor identifies skills that the course is designed to strengthen and determines how students can observe themselves demonstrating these skills (videotape, audiotape, notes, etc.). Instructors provide students with fairly specific guidelines regarding what skills to focus on and what point of view to use, and direct students to write a description of their performance and to assess their performance in the focus skills using the following categories: ineffective, adequate, or very effective. Instructors can compare students’ self-assessments with their own assessment of the students. This technique also provides valuable information about the degree to which students can describe and analyze their own skills and how well they can empathize with the viewpoints of people who will evaluate their performance.

Teacher-Designed Mini Evaluation Forms, containing three to five questions, are useful for collecting student reactions to questions an instructor feels are important regarding his/her teaching. An instructor determines a few questions that closely relate to instructional goals for the class and develops appropriate coded responses such as multiple choice, scale, or short fill-in answers. The evaluation form should be carefully worded to collect constructive responses, and students should be permitted to return the forms anonymously. This technique can be used at regular intervals throughout the semester to allow the instructor time to make any necessary changes. Click here to learn more about collecting feedback on your teaching and to see sample feedback surveys.

The One-minute Paper is a particularly useful technique in large lecture courses to obtain anonymous student feedback on one or two questions. During the last five to ten minutes of a class session, an instructor asks students to respond frankly and concisely to one or two questions. Examples of questions that might provide relevant feedback are 1) What is the most important thing you learned in today’s class? and 2) What questions that you have from today’s class remain unanswered.