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Techniques for Assessing
Course-Related Knowledge and Skills

Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding


  1. BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE PROBE - can use on the first day of class, or before introducing a new topic. Prepare 2/3 open-ended, 5/6 short answer, or 10/20 multiple-choice questions that probe the students' existing knowledge. At next class meeting, let the students know the results and how this will affect them as learners.

  2. FOCUSED LISTING - use as a brainstorming technique to generate definitions/ descriptions of topics. Ask students to take 3-5 minutes and list words or phrases that describe concept *can be used to generate class discussion or then have students form groups to compare lists and form the best overall description of topic.

  3. MISCONCEPTION/PRECONCEPTION CHECK - particularly useful in classes with controversial/sensitive issues. Select a handful of troublesome beliefs that are common and most likely to interfere with students' learning, and create a simple questionnaire. Explain to your students the purpose and when they should expect to receive feedback.

  4. EMPTY OUTLINES - instructor provides students with an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class lecture or assigned homework reading and gives them limited amount of time to fill in the blank spaces.

  5. MEMORY MATRIX - instructor hands out a two-dimensional diagram, rectangle divided into rows and columns used to organize info and illustrate relationships-row and column headings are given but the cells are left empty for students to fill in information. Can turn in for an individual grade or have students work in groups.

  6. ONE MINUTE PAPERS - in the last 10 minutes of class, ask the following questions, "the most imp thing that you have learned today?," "1-2 imp questions that have regarding the lecture?," "what subject would you like to know more about?" (can also ask questions regarding the lecture or chapter) Have students write down answers, collect-can be used to start the next class lecture, etc.

  7. MUDDIEST POINT - 5-10 minutes before the end of class, ask students' "What was the muddiest point in…?" Could be in reference to a discussion, homework assignment, movie, play, etc. Allow verbal responses that are addressed immediately, and/or collect written responses from which you choose 1 to start the next class.

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Virginia Commonwealth University | Center for Teaching Excellence
Last modified: June 20, 2013
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