What Do Your Students Know for the Final?

Was your students' performance on your midterm exam or paper surprising, even disappointing? It is often difficult for us to judge our students' intellectual progress solely from homework or class discussion. Here are a few suggestions of quick classroom assessment techniques to help you gauge your students' learning before the final exam. Students often appreciate your showing interest in their progress in this way.

Assessing General Knowledge/Comprehension:

  • One-minute paper: Ask your students to take a moment at the end of the class to write down a key point of the class session, or a question that they still have. Between that class and the next, peruse these comments, and then take a small amount of time in the following class, precept, or laboratory to address students' concerns or misconceptions, or design an assignment to address the learning issue.

Assessing Analytical/Critical Thinking Skills :

  • Partial or annotated problem-solving: If you teach a quantitative class, you may find that students rush to the calculation phase of problem-solving without adequately analyzing the problem's underlying concepts. You may address this issue by designing some problems on assignments that require students to analyze only, without calculating an answer, or that ask students to annotate their problem-solving strategy with brief written explanations.
  • Pro and con grid: Asking students to make a quick list of the apparent pros and cons, costs and benefits, or advantages or disadvantages, of an approach, method, or problem solution can show you how well students can imagine more than one side to an issue and which aspects of the issue they emphasize or neglect.

Assessing Skill at Synthesis and Creative Thinking:

  • One-sentence summary: Ask students to summarize a key concept, method, or reading in one sentence by asking a question such as the following: “What is the author arguing?” “What is the cause/result of this process?” This technique allows you to see how well students understand certain ideas and also gives students practice in “chunking” information—condensing it into smaller, interrelated bits for easier use and recall.

For more suggestions, contact the McGraw Center, mcgraw@princeton.edu

Angelo, T.A. and K.P. Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques, 2nd edition. 
Jossey-Bass, 1993.

For additional pedagogical resources, visit the Graduate Students and Faculty webpages.