UNDERSTANDING IN SCIENCE
The last focus area we are going to address in depth this year is the notion of assessing student
understanding of science, and how this process relates to the instructional efforts of the teacher.
Before we get into details of this process, we need to address some broad considerations about
assessment, so that we have a common understanding of what we want or need to address. The notes
on the following pages accompany the presentations around this issue.
Assessment vs. Grading
One of the difficulties in thinking about assessment is that teachers and students so often confuse the
concept with grading. Assessment needs to be viewed as an on-going process intended to further our
students’ learning and understanding of the desired materials. Grading is not such a process,
considering the way it is used in most classrooms. If we are to assess our students’ learning in order to
determine whether or not they are meeting educational or other objectives within the class, we must
evaluate their learning at a variety of stages along the way, as opposed to a final, cumulative, all-or-
nothing process. The underlying assumption that goes with this definition of assessment is that we are
doing this to better assist our students in learning and understanding the concepts and principles we
are teaching in our classrooms.
Private to student and assessor Part of administrative record
Subtext and process specific Text and Information specific
Goal Directed Content driven
Focus is on learning Focus is on “counting” or discipline
Purposes of Assessment
When examining the types of assessment we use within our classrooms, we need to determine the
purpose of the assessment and whether or not it is properly assessing the learning objective of the
student. When this is not done, it often causes misunderstanding and anxiety on the part of the
student, both toward the class and the teacher. When determining a method of assessment, one should
ask the following questions:
1. What tools are we already using?
2. How are we using the results?
3. How are we reporting the results?
MMSTLC Science Resources - Assessing Student Understanding 1
4. To whom are we reporting?
5. What school proficiencies (goals) are being measured by the results?
6. What are the relative strengths of the process?
7. What are the weaknesses?
8. What should we do to better achieve our purposes?
Once these questions are asked by educators of their own classroom and school, it is much easier to
determine appropriate methods of assessment for the actual instructional goals of the class.
To focus student learning:
1.To inform and guide students as to what they have learned and to suggest what they need to learn so
they can adequately manage the direction of their own work.
2. To inform and guide parents for the same reasons.
To focus teaching:
3.To inform day-to-day teaching so that teachers can adjust lesson plans to meet student needs.
4.To evaluate teaching effects and the usefulness of their teaching strategies and methods employed in
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To improve systems:
5.To determine special services that might be required to assist students.
6.To evaluate systems which run the school.
7.To evaluate the curriculum as a whole, and make necessary adjustments to accommodate student
To influence policy and planning:
8.To inform school boards and larger decision making bodies of the programs and evaluate their needs.
9.To inform the public of the quality of educational programs in their schools.
For a broad definition, we consider assessment as “the process of collecting, synthesizing, and
interpreting information to aid classroom decision-making” (Airasian, 1996). Assessments must match
the content taught in order for the students to demonstrate what they have learned. Effective
assessments address the learning objectives and the instructional emphasis when they are designed and
implemented. Assessments should never include topics or objectives not taught to the students. Also,
assessments can never appraise everything that students learn in class; they can only estimate what
students have learned by sampling tasks from a much larger possible range of tasks. Ideally, we, as
teachers, try to address this limitation by giving students several opportunities to show what they have
learned through different media (e.g., answering tests and quiz items, completing student sheets,
collaborating in groups, presenting projects), and at different points during the course of study, so that
we get a broader view of the student’s understanding of the concepts and skills, rather than a mere
snapshot on what might be a bad day for the student.
During the process of learning science through inquiry in our classrooms, there are many opportunities
to assess student understanding. Assessment can include formal and informal assessments. Formal
assessments examine products such as written or oral responses (Pellegrino, 2001). These might include
tests, quizzes, artifacts, investigations, student sheets, and presentations, among other, tangible
things. According to Pellegrino informal assessments are “intuitive, often sub-conscious, reasoning
teachers carry out everyday in classrooms.” These might include checks for student understanding like
classroom questioning and assessment conversations. These informal assessments are more based on
habits of mind from the teacher, as well as their abilities as observers of learners.
Ideally, all of the assessments a teacher or school may conduct with students are formative in nature.
According to Black and William (1998) formative assessments encompass all those activities undertaken
by teachers, and/or by their students, that provide information to be used as feedback to modify the
teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. The feedback component of assessments is
critical. However, many assessments have to be summative in nature in order to measure what
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students have learned at the end of some set of learning activities and to assign a grade.
Classroom assessment may look at various “grain sizes” for teachers to better understand their
students’ knowledge and depth of understanding of the content, processes and skills of science. Some
assessments might allow the teacher to get a glimpse into the individual thoughts of students and to be
able to respond to each to address their learning needs. Others might provide a broader view of the
general understanding of small groups, or the class as a whole. Either way, when a teacher develops
and uses an assessment, they need to be ready to analyze the work or responses of the student so that
they can utilize this information to better craft their own instruction. As a result, the teacher needs to
look at a variety of factors within the design of the individual assessment. These might include the
type of learning desired, the nature of the understanding of the content (and its place relative to
the learning goals of the classroom), the prior knowledge or skills a student might have to address a
particular topic or task, and the ways in which the student communicates their knowledge to others.
As we focus on the design of assessments, we’ll look at each of these categories.
Types of Learning
There is more than one type of learning. A committee of colleges, led by Benjamin Bloom, identified
three domains of educational activities:
• Cognitive: mental skills (Knowledge)
• Affective: growth in feelings or emotional areas (Attitude)
• Psychomotor: manual or physical skills (Skills)
Since the work was produced by higher education, the words tend to be a little bigger than we
normally use. Domains can be thought of as categories. Trainers often refer to these three domains as
KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude). This taxonomy of learning behaviors can be thought of as "the
goals of the instructional process." That is, after some amount of instruction, the student should have
acquired new skills, knowledge, and/or attitudes.
The committee also produced an elaborate compilation for the cognitive and affective domains, but
none for the psychomotor domain. This compilation divides the three domains into subdivisions,
starting from the simplest behavior to the most complex. The divisions outlined are not absolutes and
there are other systems or hierarchies that have been devised in the educational and training world.
However, Bloom's taxonomy is easily understood and is probably the most widely applied one in use
The cognitive domain involves knowledge and the development of intellectual skills. This includes the
recall or recognition of specific facts, procedural patterns, and concepts that serve in the development
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of intellectual abilities and skills.
There are six major categories,
which are listed in order below,
starting from the simplest
behavior to the most complex. The
categories can be thought of as
degrees of difficulties. That is, the
first one must be mastered before
the next one can take place. The
diagram, shown at right, helps
illustrate these levels. The text
that follows provides some insight
into the types of tasks or
assessments we use, and what kind
of language we use to ask students
to do these tasks.
Cognitive Level Examples of a Task Key Words and
Knowledge: Recall data or Recite a policy. Quote prices defines, describes, identifies,
information. from memory to a customer. knows, labels, lists, matches,
Knows the safety rules. names, outlines, recalls,
recognizes, reproduces, selects,
Comprehension: Understand the Rewrites the principles of test comprehends, converts,
meaning, translation, writing. Explain in one’s own defends, distinguishes,
interpolation, and interpretation words the steps for performing a estimates, explains, extends,
of instructions and problems. complex task. Translates an generalizes, gives. Examples,
State a problem in one's own equation into infers, interprets, paraphrases,
words predicts, rewrites, summarizes,
Application: Use a concept in a Use a manual to calculate an applies, changes, computes,
new situation or unprompted use employee’s vacation time. Apply constructs, demonstrates,
of an abstraction. Applies what laws of statistics to evaluate the discovers, manipulates,
was learned in the classroom reliability of a written test. modifies, operates, predicts,
into novel situations in the work prepares, produces, relates,
place. shows, solves, uses.
Analysis: Separates material or Troubleshoot a piece of analyzes, breaks down,
concepts into component parts equipment by using logical compares, contrasts, diagrams,
so that its organizational deduction. Recognize logical deconstructs, differentiates,
structure may be understood. fallacies in reasoning. Gathers discriminates, distinguishes,
Distinguishes between facts and information from a department identifies, illustrates, infers,
MMSTLC Science Resources - Assessing Student Understanding 5
inferences. and selects the required tasks outlines, relates, selects,
for training. separates.
Synthesis: Builds a structure or Write a company operations or categorizes, combines,
pattern from diverse elements. process manual. Design a compiles, composes, creates,
Put parts together to form a machine to perform a specific devises, designs, explains,
whole, with emphasis on task. Integrates training from generates, modifies, organizes,
creating a new meaning or several sources to solve a plans, rearranges, reconstructs,
structure. problem. Revises and process to relates, reorganizes, revises,
improve the outcome. rewrites, summarizes, tells,
Evaluation: Make judgments Select the most effective appraises, compares, concludes,
about the value of ideas or solution. Hire the most qualified contrasts, criticizes, critiques,
materials. candidate. Explain and justify a defends, describes,
new budget. discriminates, evaluates,
explains, interprets, justifies,
relates, summarizes, supports.
The affective domain addresses the manner in which we deal with things emotionally, such as feelings,
values, appreciation, enthusiasm, motivation, and attitudes. There are numerous organizing categories
for this domain, but the most commonly used is listed on the next page. Like the cognitive domain,
these build upon each other, with the first being the simplest and building to the most complex.
While the affective domain is often diminished or ignored in curriculum design or instruction, we need
to consider these categories, as they are often barriers to engagement for students, and can not only
limit their ability to build cognitive understanding of science, but also affect the effort and value a
student may place on science or education in the future. We know, for instance, that middle school is
generally the first time that students fully express frustration and lack of satisfaction in their learning
of mathematics and science.
The psychomotor domain includes physical movement, coordination, and the use of motor-skill areas.
Development of these skills requires practice and is measured in terms of speed, precision, distance,
procedures, or techniques in execution. The table on page 8 highlights these categories from simplest
to most complex.
While these abilities may often seem to be more of an issue in the early grades of school (pre-
adolescent children), they are still developing through adulthood, and are enhanced with practice. In
science instruction, it is often crucial to include tasks that develop these skills when considering the
many measurement and experimentation activities that are typically done in the sciences.
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Bloom B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New
York: David McKay Co Inc.
Dave, R. H. (1975). Developing and Writing Behavioral Objectives. (R J Armstrong, ed.) Educational
Harrow, Anita (1972) A Taxonomy of Psychomotor Domain: A Guide for Developing Behavioral
Objectives. New York: David McKay.
Krathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Bertram, B. M. (1973). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, The
Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook II: Affective Domain. New York: David McKay
Simpson E. J. (1972). The Classification of Educational Objectives in the Psychomotor Domain.
Washington, DC: Gryphon House.
MMSTLC Science Resources - Assessing Student Understanding 7
Affective Domain Levels
Affective Category Key Words and
(Description) Examples of a Task
Receiving Phenomena: Listen to others with respect. asks, chooses, describes,
Awareness, willingness to hear, Listen for and remember the follows, gives, holds, identifies,
selected attention name of newly introduced locates, names, points to,
people. selects, sits, erects, replies,
Responding to Phenomena: Participates in class discussions. answers, assists, aids, complies,
Active participation for Gives a presentation. Questions conforms, discusses, greets,
students. The student attends new ideals, concepts, models, helps, labels, performs,
and reacts to specific etc. in order to fully understand practices, presents, reads,
phenomena. Learning outcomes them. Knows and practices recites, reports, selects, tells,
focus on compliance in safety rules. writes.
responding, willingness to
respond, and satisfaction in
Valuing: The worth a person Demonstrates belief in the completes, demonstrates,
attaches to an object, democratic process. Sensitive differentiates, explains, follows,
phenomenon, or behavior. toward individual and group forms, initiates, invites, joins,
Ranges from acceptance to differences. Shows the ability to justifies, proposes, reads,
commitment. Based on how a solve problems in social reports, selects, shares, studies,
person internalizes a set of interaction. Proposes a plan to works
specific values. Clues to these social improvement and follows
are expressed in the student’s through.
Organization: Organizes values Recognizes the need for balance adheres, alters, arranges,
into priorities by contrasting between freedom and combines, compares, completes,
different values, resolving responsible behavior. Accepts defends, explains, formulates,
conflicts between them, and responsibility for one’s behavior. generalizes, identifies,
creating a unique value system. Explains the role of systematic integrates, modifies, orders,
Emphasis is on comparing, planning in solving problems. organizes, prepares, relates,
relating, and synthesizing Accepts professional ethical synthesizes
values. standards. Prioritizes time
effectively to meet the needs of
the organization, family, and
Internalizing Values: Has a Shows self-reliance when acts, discriminates, displays,
value system that controls working independently. influences, listens, modifies,
behavior. Behavior is pervasive, Cooperates in group activities performs, practices, proposes,
consistent, predictable, and (displays teamwork). Uses an qualifies, questions, revises,
most importantly, characteristic objective approach in problem serves, solves, verifies
of the student. Instructional solving. Revises judgments and
objectives for this level are changes behavior in light of new
concerned with student’s evidence. Values people for
patterns of adjustment what they are, not how they
(personal, social, emotional) look.
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Psychomotor Domain Levels
Skill Level Key Words and
Examples of a Task
Perception: Ability to use Detects non-verbal chooses, describes, detects,
sensory cures to guide motor communication cues. Estimate differentiates, distinguishes,
activity. Ranges from sensory where a ball will land after it is identifies, isolates, relates,
stimulation to translation. thrown and the move to the selects
correct location to catch the
ball. Adjusts heat of stove to
correct temperature by smell
and taste of food.
Set: Readiness to act. In Knows and acts upon a sequence begins, displays, explains,
includes mental, physical, and of steps in creating an object. moves, proceeds, reacts, shows,
emotional sets. These sets are Recognizes abilities and states, volunteers
dispositions that predetermine a limitations. Shows desire to
person’s response to different learn a new process.
situations (i.e. “mindsets”).
Guided Response: Early stage in Performs a mathematical copies, traces, follows, reacts,
learning a complex skill that equation as demonstrated. reproduce, responds
includes imitation and trial and Follows instructions to build a
error. Adequacy is achieved by model.
Mechanism: Intermediate stage Uses a personal computer. assembles, builds, calibrates,
of learning a complex skill. Repair a leaking faucet. Drive a constructs, dismantles, displays,
Learned responses are habitual car. fastens, fixes, grinds, heats,
and movements performed with manipulates, measures, mends,
confidence and proficiency. mixes, organizes, sketches
(Note: key words are the same
Complex Overt Response: Skillful Maneuver a car into a tight
for mechanism complex overt
performance of motor acts parallel parking spot. Operate a
response, but for the latter,
involving complex movement computer quickly and
adverbs or adjectives indicate
patters. Quick, accurate and accurately. Display competence
performance - i.e. quicker,
highly coordinated performance while playing the piano.
better, more accurate, etc.
with minimum energy show
proficiency. Generally automatic
Adaptation: Skills are well Respond effectively to adapts, alters, changes,
developed and the individual unexpected experiences. Modify rearranges, reorganizes, revises,
can modify movement patterns instruction to meet the needs of varies.
to fit specific requirements. the learners. Perform a task
with a machine that it was not
intended to do.
Origination: Creating new Constructs a new theory. arranges, builds, combines,
movement patterns to fit a Develops a new and composes, constructs, creates,
particular situation or specific comprehensive training designs, initiates, makes,
problem. Learning outcomes program. Creates a new dance originates.
emphasize creativity based on or gymnastic routine.
highly developed skills.
MMSTLC Science Resources - Assessing Student Understanding 9
Techniques for Assessing
Course-Related Knowledge and Skills
Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding
• Background Knowledge Probe - Short, simple questionnaires prepared by instructors for use at the
beginning of a course, at the start of a new unit or lesson, or prior to introducing an important new
topic. Used to help teachers determine the most effective starting point for a given lesson and the
most appropriate level at which to begin new instruction.
• Focused Listing - Focuses students' attention on a single important term, name, or concept from a
particular lesson or class session and directs them to list several ideas that are closely related to
that "focus point." Used to determine what learners recall as the most important points related to
a particular topic.
• Misconception/Preconception Check - Technique used for gathering information on prior
knowledge or beliefs that may hinder or block further learning.
• Empty Outlines - The instructor provides students with an empty or partially completed outline of
an in-class presentation or homework assignment and gives them a limited amount of time to fill in
the blank spaces. Used to help faculty find out how well students have "caught" the important
points of a lecture, reading, or audiovisual presentation.
• Memory Matrix - A simple two-dimensional diagram, a rectangle divided into rows and columns
used to organize information and illustrate relationships. Assesses students' recall of important
course content and their skill at quickly organizing that information into categories provided by the
• Minute Paper - Instructor asks students to respond in two or three minutes to either of the
following questions: "What was the most important thing you learned during this class? or "What
important questions remains unanswered?" Used to provide a quick and extremely simple way to
collect written feedback on student learning.
• Muddiest Point - Technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one
question: "What was the muddiest point in?" with the focus on the lecture, a discussion, a
homework assignment, a play, or a film. Used to provide information on what students find least
clear or most confusing about a particular lesson or topic.
MMSTLC Science Resources - Assessing Student Understanding 10
Assessing Skill in Analysis and Critical Thinking
• Categorizing Grid - Students sort information into appropriate conceptual categories. This provides
faculty with feedback to determine quickly whether, how, and how well students understand "what
goes with what."
• Defining Features Matrix - Students are required to categorize concepts according to the presence
(+) or absence (-) of important defining features. This provides data on their analytic reading and
• Pro and Con Grid - Students list pros and cons of an issue. This provides information on the depth
and breadth of a student's ability to analyze and on their capacity for objectivity.
• Content, Form, and Function Outlines - Students analyze the "what" (content), "how" (form), and
"why" (function) of a particular message. This technique elicits information on the students' skills at
separating and analyzing the informational content, the form, and the communicative function of a
lesson or message.
• Analytic Memos - Students write a one- or two-page analysis of a specific problem or issue. Used to
assess students' skill at communicating their analyses in a clear and concise manner.
Assessing Skill in Syntheses and Critical Thinking
• One-Sentence Summary - Students answer the questions "Who does what to whom, when, where,
how, and why?" about a given topic, and then synthesize those answers into a single informative,
grammatical, and long summary sentence.
• Word Journal - Students first summarize a short text in a single word, and second, the student
writes a paragraph or two explaining why he chose that particular word to summarize the text.
This technique helps faculty assess and improve the students' ability to read carefully and deeply
and the students' skill at explaining and defending, in just a few more words, their choice for a
single summary word.
• Approximate Analogies - Students complete the second half of an analogy for which the instructor
has supplied the first half. This allows teachers to find out whether their students understand the
relationship between the two concepts or terms given as the first part of the analogy.
• Concept Maps - Drawings or diagrams showing the mental connections that students make between
a major concept the instructor focuses on and other concepts they have learned. This provides an
observable and assessable record of the students' conceptual schema-the patterns of associations
they make in relation to a given focal concept.
• Invented Dialogues - Students synthesize their knowledge of issues, personalities, and historical
periods into the form of a carefully structured, illustrative conversation. This provides information
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on students' ability to capture the essence of other people's personalities and styles of expression -
as well as on their understanding of theories, controversies, and the opinions of others.
• Annotated Portfolios - Contain a very limited number of selected examples of a student's creative
work, supplemented by the student's own commentary on the significance of those examples.
Assessing Skill in Problem Solving
• Problem Recognition Tasks - Students are provided with a few examples of common problem types
and are asked to recognize and identify the particular type of problem each example represents.
Faculty is able to assess how well students can recognize various problem types, the first step in
matching problem type to solution method.
• What's the Principle? - Students are provided with a few problems and are asked to state the
principle that best applies to each problem. Instructors assess students' ability to associate specific
problems with the general principles used to solve them.
• Documented Problem Solutions - Prompts students to keep track of the steps they take in solving
a problem. This assesses how students solve problems and how well students understand and can
describe their problem-solving methods.
• Audio- and Videotaped Protocols - Students are recorded talking and working through the process
of solving a problem. Faculty assess in detail how and how well students solve problems.
Assessing Skill in Application and Performance
• Directed Paraphrasing - Students paraphrase part of a lesson for a specific audience and purpose,
using their own words. Feedback is provided on students' ability to summarize and restate
important information or concepts in their own words; it allows faculty to assess how well students
have understood and internalized that learning.
• Applications Cards - Students write down at least one possible, real-world application for an
important principle, generalization, theory, or procedure that they just learned. This lets faculty
know how well students understand the possible applications of what students have learned.
• Student-Generated Test Questions - Students are asked to develop test questions from material
they have been taught. Teachers see what their students consider the most important or
memorable content, what they understand as fair and useful test questions, and how well they can
answer the questions they have posed.
• Human Tableau or Class Modeling - Groups of students create "living" scenes or model processes to
show what they know. Students demonstrate their ability to apply what they know by performing
• Paper or Project Prospectus - A prospectus is a brief, structured first-draft plan for a term paper
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or term project. The Paper Prospectus prompts students to thin through elements of the
assignment, such as the topic, purpose, intended audience, major questions to be answered, basic
organization, and time and resources required. The Project Prospectus focuses on tasks to be
accomplished, skills to be improved, and products to be developed.
Techniques for Assessing Learner
Attitudes, Values, and Self-Awareness
Assessing Students' Awareness of Their Attitudes and Values
• Classroom Opinion Polls - Students are asked to raise their hands to indicate agreement or
disagreement with a particular statement. Faculty discover student opinions about course-related
• Double-Entry Journals - Students begin by noting the ideas, assertions, and arguments in their
assigned course readings they find most meaningful and/or controversial. The second entry
explains the personal significance of the passage selected and responds to that passage. Detailed
feedback is provided on how students read, analyze, and respond to assigned texts.
• Profiles of Admirable Individuals - Students are required to write a brief, focused profile of an
individual, in a field related to the course, whose values, skills, or actions they greatly admire.
This technique helps faculty understand the images and values students associate with the best
practice and practitioners in the discipline under study.
• Everyday Ethical Dilemmas - Students are presented with an abbreviated case study that poses an
ethical problem related to the discipline or profession they are studying and must respond briefly
and anonymously to these cases. Students identify, clarify, and connect their values by responding
to course-related issues and problems that they are likely to encounter. Faculty get honest
reactions and information on what students' values are and how they apply them to realistic
• Course-Related Self-Confidence Surveys - Students answer a few simple questions aimed at
getting a rough measure of the students' self-confidence in relation to a specific skill or ability.
Faculty assess their students' level of confidence in their ability to learn the relevant skills and
material and can more effectively structure assignments that will build confidence in relation to
Assessing Students' Self-Awareness as Learners
• Focused Autobiographical Sketches - Students are directed to write a one- or two- page
autobiographical sketch focused on a single successful learning experience in their past - an
experience relevant to learning in the particular course in which the assessment technique is used.
This provides information for the students' self-concept and self- awareness as learners within a
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• Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklist - Students rate their interest in various topics, and assess
their levels of skill or knowledge in those topics, by indicating the appropriate responses on a
checklist, which has been created by the teacher. These checklists inform teachers of their
students' level of interest in course topics and their assessment of the skills and knowledge needed
for and/or developed through the course.
• Goal Ranking and Matching - Students list a few learning goals they hope to achieve through the
course and rank the relative importance of those goals. This assesses the "degree of fit" between
the students' personal learning goals and teachers' course-specific instructional goals, and between
the teachers' and students' ranking of the relative importance and difficulty of the goals.
• Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning - Students describe their general approaches to learning, or
their learning styles, by comparing themselves with several different profiles and choosing those
that, in their opinion, most closely resemble them. This provides teachers with a simple way to
assess students' learning styles or preferences for ways of learning.
Assessing Course-Related Learning and Study Skills, Strategies, and Behaviors
• Productive Study-Time Logs - Students keep a record of how much time they spend studying for a
particular class, when they study, and how productively they study at various times of the day or
night. This allows faculty to assess the amount and quality of out-of-class time all their students
are spending preparing for class, and to share that information with students.
• Punctuated Lectures - Students and teachers go through five steps: listen, stop, reflect, write,
and give feedback. Students listen to lecture. The teacher stops the action and students reflect on
what they were doing during the presentation and how their behavior while listening may have
helped or hindered their understanding of that information. They then write down any insights they
have gained and they give feedback to the teacher in the form of short, anonymous notes. This
technique provides immediate, on-the-spot feedback on how students are learning from a lecture
or demonstration and lets teachers and students know what may be distracting. And students are
encouraged to become self-monitoring listeners, and in the process, more aware and more
• Process Analysis - Students keep records of the actual steps they take in carrying out a
representative assignment and comment on the conclusions they draw about their approaches to
that assignment. This technique gives students and teachers explicit, detailed information on the
ways in which students carry out assignments and shows faculty which elements of the process are
most difficult for students and, consequently, where teachers need to offer more instruction and
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• Diagnostic Learning Logs - Students keep records of each class or assignment and write one list of
the main points covered that they understood and a second list of points that were unclear. Faculty
are provided with information and insight into their students' awareness of and skill at identifying
their own strengths and weaknesses as learners.
Techniques for Assessing
Learner Reactions for Instruction
Assessing Learner Reactions to Teachers and Teaching
• Chain Notes - Students write immediate, spontaneous reactions to questions given by the teacher
while the class is in progress. This feedback gives the teacher a "sounding" of the students' level of
engagement and involvement during lecture.
• Electronic Mail Feedback - Students respond anonymously by E-mail to a question posed by the
teacher to the class. This provides a simple, immediate channel through which faculty can pose
questions about the class and students can respond to them.
• Teacher-Designed Feedback Forms - Students answer questions on feedback forms which contain
anywhere from three to seven questions in multiple-choice, Likert-scale, or short fill-in answer
formats. These forms allow faculty to quickly and easily analyze data and use the results to make
informed and timely adjustments in their teaching.
Angelo, Thomas A. and Cross, K. Patricia. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College
Teachers. Jossey-Bass, Inc.; 1993.
Axelrod, Valija M., and Hedges, Lowell E. Assessing Learning. Instructional Materials Laboratory; 1995.
Halpern and Associates. Changing College Classrooms: New Teaching and Learning Strategies for an
Increasingly Complex World. Jossey-Bass, Inc.; 1994, San Francisco, CA.
Hilgerson, Karin M. Achieving Equity and Excellence Through Improved Assessment. Oregon School
Study Council; April 1994.
Sandifer, Everette Jr. Evaluating and Recording Student Achievement in Education. Appalachian
Regional Commission; May 1981.
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