Applying Classroom Assessment Techniques to Student Life Programming

Applying Classroom Assessment Techniques to Student Life Programming

by Jennifer Esmail

In addition to assessing your programs after they are complete, it is always important, especially with longer or ongoing programs, to ask for assessment throughout the program to ensure that you are successfully working towards your learning objectives and meeting students’ needs.

I’ve created a list of some useful and fast tools you can use to get student feedback on your activity or program or to assess students understanding of your program’s content. Many are borrowed from “Classroom Assessment Techniques” (CATs) used by post-secondary course instructors but are easily applicable to ongoing Student Life programs.

(Part 2, on How to Respond to and Apply Formative Assessment, will be posted on the blog later this month — stay tuned)



Ask students to write three headings on a piece of paper —  “Start, Stop, Continue” —  then ask them to fill in, under those headings, what they would like to see you start to do, stop doing and continue doing when facilitating the program

Benefits: Provides a quick overview of how students are responding to the program as well as actionable suggestions for making change

Further Resources:



Create a short survey, with questions that emerge from your learning outcomes, to gather student feedback

Benefits: You can use a variety of quantitative and qualitative questions and gear those questions to what you most want feedback on. You can also use similar questions on an end-of-program survey to measure change over time on those items.

Further Resources:



Provide a writing prompt that allows students to reflect on their experience in the program and then ask them to write and submit a response (eg. What has surprised you so far about your experience in this program? Or, what have you already learned and what do you still hope to learn? etc.)

Benefits: Creates space for  students to reflect on their individual experiences while providing the instructor with a short narrative of each student’s perception of their experience in the program



Ask students to create a visual map of the key concepts/ideas you are covering in your program in order to trace relationships between the ideas

Benefits: Provides you with a sense of how students are understanding the key concepts that you’re covering and creates an assessment opportunity that caters to students who learn or express themselves visually or spatially

Further Resources:



Ask students to take a minute at the end of a session to write out their responses to two questions about the program (Typically questions along the lines of 1) What was the most important thing you learned in this session? 2) What important question remains unanswered?)

Benefits: Creates a rapid way to assess student comprehension of the material you are covering and what further learning needs you need to address in future sessions

Further Resources:



Provide blank index cards to students at the beginning and end of a session to ask them to recall material from previous sessions and to reflect on what they have learned in that session. On the way into the session, they answer a question about what they have learned so far on the index card and submit it (Eg. based on the previous two sessions of this program, what is your understanding of [idea, skill or concept]). On the way out of the session, they answer a question about the most important thing they learned that session or questions they have for the next session.

Benefits: Provides space for students to synthesize material, focus on the topic at hand and reflect on their learning, while providing the facilitator with a sense of how students are grasping the material being covered in the program.

Further Resources:



After covering an important concept or idea, ask students to write down a “real-world application” for that material or to address how thinking about that material might affect how they would act should that situation arise in future.

Benefits: Provides students with an exercise where they can practice applying their learning and allows the facilitator to gauge how well students are applying the material to “real-life”

Further Resources:



Ask students to sit in a circle and provide them with a prompt or question that they answer in turn around the circle. The question should be related to an aspect of the program that you wish to measure (Eg. “By the end of this program, I want to know more about…” or, “After today’s session I feel more confident about…”)

Benefits: Allows every member of the program to articulate their position in front of their peers and provides the facilitator with information about the students understanding so far or desire for future learning opportunities


Further Resources on Classroom Assessment Techniques:


Angelo, Thomas A., & Cross, K. Patricia. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.




Jennifer is Coordinator of Academic Initiatives at the Centre for Community Partnerships and a member of the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Committee.

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