A professor talking to students in a classroom Photo courtesy of Roanoke College

Upper-year classes and seminars are prime pedagogical environments. The relatively smaller class sizes and advanced knowledge of students allows for more meaningful debate, fostering of knowledge, and attention to personal learning difficult to replicate in larger environments. However, to ensure students are understanding core concepts and receptive to the pedagogy, instructors regularly implement a variety of micro-assessments throughout the course.

The most effective micro-assessments yield responses which both influence instructor pedagogy and provide formative student feedback. There are myriad questions micro-assessments may probe in-class, including the understanding of core concepts and principles, application of theory to practice, and comfort with activities and assignments. Responses to these assessments may illuminate difficulties that may have gone unnoticed and allow instructors to nimbly address them by spending more class time on a subject, providing additional resources, or making changes to instructional style.

Here are a few examples of in-class micro-assessments:

Minute Paper

After a lecture or activity, pose students with a question such as “what is the most important thing you learned from class today?”. Give them 1-2 minutes to write down their responses and then collect them. The responses provide useful insights into whether students are understanding what you determine to be the most important concepts.

Muddiest Point

Similar to the Minute Paper, these assessments ask students to identify what they find most confusing or difficult to understand. If the majority of a class shares a difficulty with a specific subject more class time may be spent on it, while individual difficulties may be addressed one-on-one.

Application Cards

Ask students to come up with real-world applications of a theory they are studying in class. This may be done in groups, through class discussion, or through Minute Papers.

Classroom Polls

Allow students to provide anonymous feedback on course-related matters. At specific times throughout the semester, write a few questions about relating to course delivery on a blackboard and leave the room for five minutes while students write feedback and suggestions. Once you return, address each question and comment with the class.

These are only a few examples of the micro-assessments available to use in class which allow for more personalized learning and two-way communication between instructors and students. Consider implementing or developing your own micro-assessments to ensure everyone—students and instructors—are on the same page during class.

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About the Author: Dustin is a senior account manager with DesignedUX, providing communications and strategy to organizations in education and technology. Dustin is also board member of the Canadian Public Relations Society and contributes as a communications researcher with McMaster University.