Classroom Assessment Techniques

Examples of Two Classroom Assessment Techniques

The One-Minute Paper provides a way to obtain input about how well students comprehend the context of a lecture or discussion. To initiate the process, the instructor stops the class a few minutes (3-4) before the end of the period and asks students to respond to some variation of two questions designed to find out what it the most important thing they learned and what subject matter remains unclear. The process provides student self-assessment process with which the instructor can not only obtain a sense of how well the students are or are not learning important material, but also see how they use important language related to the content and skill of the course. In addition, as Cross and Angelo (1993) suggest, the Minute Paper assesses more than mere recall. To select the most important or significant information, learners must first evaluate what they recall. Then, to come up with a question, students must self-assess, asking themselves how well they understand what they have just heard or studied (p. 148).

  • The One-Minute Paper

Please answer each question in 1 or 2 sentences:

1. What was the most useful or meaningful thing you learned during this session?
2. What question(s) remain uppermost in your mind as we end this session?

The use of the Muddiest Point Question provides a way for instructors to obtain feedback about what students find unclear about assignments, lectures, discussions, laboratory exercises, tutorials, etc. When administered at an appropriate moment, the process provides a way for students to reflect on what they have heard/done and identity information, steps, or ideas where they are having difficulty. In this way, it requires that students go beyond simple recall of information to some of the higher order thinking such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. For the instructor, the technique provides an efficient way to get a sense of where students are having difficulty and determining the next steps for helping students master difficult information or skills. As Cross and Angelo (1993) suggest, “It is particularly suited to large, lower-division classes. Since students’ responses to the Muddiest Point question usually consists of a few words or phrases, a teacher can read and sort a great many in a few minutes” (p. 154).

  • The “Muddiest” Point**What was the “muddiest” point so far in this session?
      (In other words, what was least clear to you?)

**This Classroom Assessment Technique was developed by Dr. Frederick Mosteller, a distinguished professor statistics at Harvard University. For a detailed account of its development and use, see his article, The Muddiest Point in the Lecture” as a Feedback Device in On Teaching and Learning: The Journal of the Harvard-Danford Center, Volume 3, April 1989, pages 10-21. To request copies or reprints of the article, contact: The Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, 318 Science Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.

A Sampling of Classroom Assessment Techniques

  • Background Knowledge Probe – student familiarity with terms or basic problems in topic area is assessed.
  • Teaching Goals Inventory (modified) – teachers compare their goals with those of the students.
  • Focused Listing – students free association of terms associated with topic.
  • Directed paraphrasing – putting key terms into their own words.
  • Appropriate Analogies – students generate linkages between class material and other knowledge.
  • One-Minute Paper/Summaries – students identify key points from the class session.
  • Muddiest Point – students identify the most unclear part of the class session.
  • One Sentence Summary – class material is boiled down to one sentence.
  • Applications Card – students pull out key ideas and how they might apply them.
  • Group Informal Feedback on Teaching – students work in small groups to generate course feedback.
  • Pro and Con Grid – analysis of a key idea or approach.
  • Word Journals – one word is chosen to represent the class/week around which the student writes a journal entry explaining their choice of words.
  • Concrete Maps – free association of terms and subsequent visual mapping of relationships.
  • Human Tableau/Class Modeling – different points of the room are used to represent choices, students are posed questions and then locate appropriately.
  • Classroom Opinion/Problem Poll – teacher poses multiple choice questions, students respond on held-up cards.
  • Punctuated Lecture – teacher stops lecture at 1-2 points and asks students to reflect on what they are learning and how.
  • Electronic Mail Feedback – feedback about the course is requested over email/list-serv.
  • Student Management Teams/Quality Circles – students select a sub-group to regularly discuss class issues and content with the teacher.
  • Assignment Assessment/Reading Rating/Exam Evaluation – teacher asks students to evaluate the assignment/reading/exam on several criteria.

Article adapted from: Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. (2nd ed.) (pp. 3-6). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
From: Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. (2nd ed.) (pp. 148-153). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) provided by Field-tested Learning Assessment Guide for science, math, engineering, and technology instructors, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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