Web-Adapted, Low Threshold Assessments for Improved Student Learning

Barbara Millis, Doug Eder, Ray Purdom

April-May, 2006   


Brief Description of Workshop

A student's furrowed brow, the hesitatingly raised hand, one student learning over to whisper into the ear of someone in the next row --- these potentially useful signals are absent in most forms of distance education.

Faculty members who teach primarily via the Web often miss face-to-face (F2F) communication and feedback. Nevertheless, proxies for these behaviors are available in the form of assessment techniques that are surprisingly sophisticated in their design and yet are easy to prepare and use.

Such assessment methods are Low Threshold Applications (LTAs) that make student learning visible. These principles apply to the F2F environment as well. This three-part series of on-line sessions will engage participants in learning and designing LTAs for immediate use.

Slides from the webcasts

Standard Slides

First Session

Second Session

Third Session

Recorded Archive from the Sessions

First Session

Second Session

Third Session

Resources, Links, Activities

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School Committee on Developments in the Science of Learningby John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, editors
National Academy Press, 2000
ISBN: 0-309-07036-8 
More Info About this Book - Click Here

An Annotated List of Good CAT Websites from Barbara J. Millis


"Classroom Assessment is a simple method faculty can use to collect feedback, early and often, on how well their students are learning what they are being taught. The purpose of classroom assessment is to provide faculty and students with information and insights needed to improve teaching effectiveness and learning quality. College instructors use feedback gleaned through Classroom Assessment to inform adjustments in their teaching. Faculty also share feedback with students, using it to help them improve their learning strategies and study habits in order to become more independent, successful learners.... Classroom Assessment is one method of inquiry within the framework of Classroom Research, a broader approach to improving teaching and learning."

----Angelo, T.A., 1991. Ten easy pieces: Assessing higher learning in four dimensions. In Classroom research: Early lessons from success. New directions in teaching and learning (#46), Summer, 17-31.

This well-organized web-page begins with the above observation and carefully links Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) to effective teaching practices.  This resource contains almost a dozen specific CATs, but it also offers brief essays on topics such as active learning, guided essays, assessments vs. grades, rubric for grading standards, assessing group effectiveness, etc.  Highly recommended! 


This webpage contains summaries from Angelo and Cross’s Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. 2nd Ed.   Five CATs are featured:  The Background Knowledge Probe; Minute Paper; Muddiest Point; One-Sentence Summary; and What’s the Principle?   


This useful webpage from the National Teaching and Learning Forum contains an overview of classroom assessment, including reasons for using them.  It discusses the Minute Paper, Chain Notes, Memory Matrix, Directed Paraphrasing, One-sentence Summary, Exam Evaluations, Application Cards, and Student-generated Test Questions within the context of how to conduct the CAT, what to do with the data, and how long the specific Cat takes.   


This interactive website dedicated to effective assessment contains a wealth of material, including an inventory to match your student learning goals to CATs.  Although specifically designed for faculty members in science, mathematics, engineering, and assessment, this web page has resources and tools that would appeal to virtually anyone.  Highly recommended. 

Online Assessment Suggestion from Ray Purdom:


This free software tool allows faculty to quickly create online assessments and present them to students, allowing them to offer impressions of a course and your teaching.  It has an extensive question bank or faculty members can create their own questions.

Low Threshold Applications from the TLT Group:

Using Teams LX to Facilitate Online Collaboration 

Using Teams LX in the Blackboard Course Management System, instructors can participate in student group projects and provide feedback through comments. Teams LX has a built-in tool that allows instructors to assess the level of group participation in the creating and editing of the project content. In addition to reading student comments, instructors can also determine which students have worked on the site and what they have done to contribute to the site.


Using Digitized Recordings to Respond to Student Writing 

One of the most important interactions with students for instructors who assign writing in their courses is the response provided to students. While most instructors rely upon written comments in the margins and at the end of the student paper and others prefer to hold one-on-one conferences with their students, another approach is to provide digitized recordings of feedback for students.


Student Response System 

A Student Response System (SRS) provides students with wireless hand-held response pads that allow them to electronically reply to classroom questions and receive  immediate feedback. Instructors can thereby engage students in course material through interactive question and answer sessions.


Using Reviewing Toolbar in Microsoft Word 

Students often receive feedback from their instructors on papers, exams, or other assignments in a form that they either can't read or can't understand.  The Microsoft Word Reviewing toolbar (available from Toolbars under the View menu) provides several features to ease the process of evaluating student work and more clearly provide feedback to students


Using Flashlight™ Online for Classroom Assessment Surveys: Platform Independent Application 

Flashlight™ Online is intended for creating, administering, and analyzing surveys developed for program level assessment and evaluation. It also provides additional resources to support users interested in doing studies related to the use of technology for learning.  Flashlight™ Online can also be used for classroom assessment surveys (student learning probes).


Instant Messenger 

Instant Messenger is a free utility that allows individuals to chat with other people on the Internet.  If students are working off-campus or across campus, using instant messenger allows them to contact the instructor with questions and for the instructor to provide feedback in a much more convenient fashion.


Tracking Changes in Microsoft Word Documents 

Tracking in Microsoft Word allows instructors to comments on assignments that are submitted and then returning these comments to the students. This process is completely an electronic one with no paper being printed and no red pen or pencil marks scribbled on a document that sometimes defy interpretation.


Also from the TLT Group

LTA of the Week

"Seven Principles of Good Practice" (includes library of ideas for teaching w. technology)

The TLT Group helps people in educational institutions to improve teaching and learning by making more appropriate and cost-effective use of information technology without sacrificing what matters most to them.

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