Some of the content on this website requires JavaScript to be enabled in your web browser to function as intended. While the website is still usable without JavaScript, it should be enabled to enjoy the full interactive experience.

Skip to Main Content

Monitoring Learning

Monitoring Learning: Beyond Tests and Assignments

Major tests and class assignments give students good feedback on their standing in a course, but they may not be frequent enough to help students  steadily advance. First-year students, in particular, benefit from early and frequent low-stakes or no-stakes assessments that help them monitor their own learning. Classroom assessment techniques offer one of the best ways to monitor and promote learning; they are signposts letting students know if they are on the right track. The techniques are quick, easy to do, and result in immediate feedback for you and your students. They take very little class time. The techniques described below are three of dozens of possibilities.

The one-minute paper

This technique, which takes very little class time, can have significant effects for your teaching and for your students’ learning. For example, you can start a discussion session by asking students to write for one or two minutes on the topic. You will be impressed by how writing before speaking elevates the level of discussion and increases the amount of participation. Similarly, starting a lab with a short pre-lab writing assignment will help students to focus on the purpose or goals of the exercise. Use a one-minute paper in the middle of a class to break-up a lecture or to start a question and answer session. One-minute papers at the end of class are invaluable assessment opportunities. Scan them to discover what you might need to teach again, and in the next class period, summarize what you discovered in the papers. Students will appreciate your interest and attention.


In addition to encouraging students to complete reading and other homework assignments, quizzes have a variety of useful purposes. In the weeks before a major exam, you can familiarize your students with your style of question in occasional quizzes. You can extend their learning and their confidence with test-taking by featuring best answers or best thinking when you return quizzes. Electronic forms of quizzes, with clickers or cell phones, have an added benefit of getting instant results so that you can review on the spot. Combining an individual quiz with a small group quiz, in which students must come to a consensus about an answer, promotes critical thinking. Pausing for a short small group quiz in the middle of a class period helps students to reinforce their learning and refocus for the second half of the period.

Midterm reality check

Near the middle of the semester, take 15 minutes of a class period to ask your students to anonymously provide answers to two or three questions: what is going well; what is difficult or challenging; and what needs to be changed. Be careful how you phrase this: it is better to ask for specific suggestions on how you could better facilitate student learning, than to leave it as an open question. Before the next class period, read and summarize the responses, and then discuss with students what changes you can make (and the reasons why you can’t make other suggested changes). Instructors who employ this assessment technique confirm that it has significant benefits.

Recommended reading:Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross,Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd edition. Jossey-Bass, 1993. Available for checkout from the ECTL Library,Coe Library, room 510.

Share This Page:

Footer Navigation

University of Wyoming
1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071 // UW Operators (307) 766-1121 // Contact Us