Some new things I tried this semester: the failed experiment

The third new thing I tried in the fall semester was to incorporate different formative classroom assessment techniques, in addition to my old standby, the minute paper.1  Minute papers are great, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve learned a ton of stuff from them, but there are other tools out there that you can learn different things from, and I’d like to try them.

The problem is, none of the ones that I thought about using seemed to fit authentically into my teaching. There’s a list here (sorry, Word document!) of assessment tools specifically tailored for information literacy instruction, and one of my colleagues has a list of six short and simple ones (including the minute paper) that was a staple of her previous library’s instruction program.  But some of them manifestly didn’t apply to the kind of instruction I was doing for a particular course, and others seemed either too time-consuming, too artificial, or too evaluative for me to be comfortable with them.

I’m going to make a point to talk with my colleague about the assessment tools that she uses, and how she integrates them into her instruction, to see if I can find ways to make these work better for me.  In the mean time, what do you do — in addition to, or instead of, the minute paper — to help you learn what your students have learned, and what you can change to help them learn better?


  1. If that last clause was gibberish to you, allow me to recommend a classic work on formative classroom assessment, which is Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross’s Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers; the 2nd edition was published in 1993 and I believe there is a 3rd edition in preparation.