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Cambridge LibGuides

Tools for Teaching

Light-touch approaches: introduction

Evaluation does not need to be approached in a formal or documented way. Asking for responses from learners to questions via a show of hands during a session, or for anonymous feedback on sticky notes prompted by verbal cues and prompts, for example, are great ways to arrive at actionable insights to inform teaching content and delivery.

For those looking to conduct more formal evaluation that remains relatively light touch for both learners and evaluators, this page introduces tools that can be taken and used without editing, or tailored to suit local context, to conduct quick, simple teaching evaluation. These could be used in a variety of situations, with groups of any size and easily adapted for online delivery and feedback.

With relatively little effort and no need to create new evaluation tools and materials, these options can provide valuable insight to inform change and, if repeated over time, ongoing measurement of the relative success of aspects of teaching sessions.

'Fast feedback' form

This has been designed and provided by Claire Sewell, Research Support Librarian (Physical Sciences). Claire reflects on her use of the Fast feedback form:

"My role involves teaching a wide variety of learners who come from different academic stages and disciplines. Most of these learners will only attend one or two sessions making consistent assessment over time difficult.  To address these problems I use a generic quick feedback form in all sessions. This form asks three key questions about what attendees have learnt from the session, any practical applications it might have for them and anything they would like to know more about. These questions are deliberately framed in a positive way to encourage responses and to avoid making learners feel that they are at fault e.g. ‘one thing you didn’t understand’ becomes ‘one question you still have’.

Keeping the form short and asking for only one response to each question encourages learners to fill it in, especially as they are often rushing to other commitments. The feedback collected via the form has been useful in helping to identify if learners have taken away key points and in identifying areas where the sessions could be expanded to answer questions that learners have."

Image version of Fast feedback form:Image version of fast feedback form. Download form using link below to access text content and edit.

The Minute Paper

This technique was initially design by Charles Schwarz, University of California, Berkley in the 1980s. It is referenced in Angelo, T. & Cross, P. (1988) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Clare Trowell has used this technique and describes using the Minute Paper below. A fuller summary of Clare's use of the Minute Paper in practice can be accessed via the CILN blog. Click here to access the blog post. 

"A minute paper is a short and informal writing assessment which typically occurs at the end of the lecture. They are a particularly useful way to assess students in a large lecture theatre setting. They do not take up much time, a minute in fact, and can be easily assessed to see whether students have grasped the key ideas presented in the lecture. They commonly take the form of “What was the most important thing discussed today?” or “What did you learn today?” In this way the minute paper is a way for lecturers and the students themselves to assess student engagement and learning." 

The Minute Paper consists of three simple questions: 

  • What are you hoping to learn today? 

  • What did you learn today? 

  • What do you need to learn more about? 

You could use slightly different wording if you wish. The first question needs to be asked early on, for example as students enter the lecture theatre. The other two questions can be asked at the end of the session and you may need to allow a few seconds to do that. You could also share the learning objectives of your session with the students when asking them what they hope to learn. This should give some rich feedback demonstrating the gaps between the students’ expectations and what is taught and where key concepts have not been grasped. It may be particularly useful if you are fortunate enough to see a group more than once.  

Image version of the Minute Paper: Image version of Minute Paper - download Word document version to access text using link below

Printed A5 feedback form

This has been made available by the Department of Engineering Library team. Emma Etteridge from the team describes using the feedback form in practice:

"We take these forms with us to our teaching, and we give them out at the start of the session, and they fill in the first bit whist we wait for everyone to arrive, and the last bit whilst they are packing up. It is helpful as most of the students will do it and it gives us instant feedback, no one did our online feedback.

Sometimes we got negative feedback or contradictory feedback, but it did mean we could make almost on the fly updates. I’d teach Presentation Skills say, and find out that the 3rd years had a piece of coursework where they had to present a poster. I added a couple of slides for my next session on Presentation Skills about presenting a poster and I added similar slides to the session on Poster design, I wouldn’t have to use them if my next group didn’t include those 3rd years, but I wouldn’t have known without the feedback that it was a thing they were doing. We’d find out that PhDs were going to Undergraduate sessions which meant we could offer similar sessions to our PhD leaders.

Even if we didn’t get big pointers on changes, just seeing what they wanted to learn and what they learned being the same thing, it meant we were doing it right."

Image version of A5 feedback form:Image version of printed A5 feedback form. Download the Microsoft Powerpoint version via the link below to access text and edit form

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