Seven fun ways to assess student learning (Teaching Tip)

Cognitive psychologists have long stated that testing can enhance memory. CELT SoTL Scholar Jason Chan, an Associate Professor in Psychology, has found in his research with graduate students that testing one’s memory not only enhances retention of materials learned previously, it also boosts learning of materials that will appear later. Read the “Asking questions, testing improves student learning of new material” Inside Iowa State web article.

With midterm grade reports due on Friday, March 8th on Canvas or AccessPlus, you may wonder how you can help students prepare for future exams. If done well, review sessions can help students better organize course material, increase student engagement, and promote active learning and practice (Bord, 2008). Colleagues in the World Languages and Cultures Department shared great ways that they use active engagement strategies to enhance the learning environment and decrease stress associated with exam preparation:

  1. Instructors can use the application Quizlet to customize flashcards and prepare practice tests. Students can also prepare their own tests, customizing them in terms of question type and length. Learn how via the MyCanvas Teacher Quizlet webpage.
  2. Studymate is integrated with Canvas and offers an easy way for instructors to create flashcards, self-assessments and learning games. Read more about StudyMate’s easy to use authoring templates for learning activities from the MyCanvas Teacher StudyMate Campus webpage.
  3. Students can use Sketchnoting to break down their lessons in a different way; seeing it drawn in front of them often leads to visual connections between topics that they otherwise may not have seen. Sketchnoting is an alternative to traditional note-taking, a process of adding visuals to notes in order to cement what students learned and push them to think about the material in a new way. To learn how, register to participate in the 3-Part Series: Sketchnoting for Visual Note Taking and more, Apr. 3, 30 & 17 (12:30-2 p.m.)
  4. Mind-Mapping activates a similar critical-thinking and connection-making process and is helpful to students who enjoy learning from graphic organizers. One option is using diagrams or drawings in Google Docs, view the Insert and arrange text, shapes, diagrams, and lines web guide. Want to connect Google Suite to your Iowa State account? Learn how on the MyCanvas Teacher Google Suite webpage.
  5. For a more physically-engaging review session, Four Corners presents a series of multiple-choice questions and asks students to move to the corresponding corner of the classroom (designated “A-B-C-D”) for each question. Students are asked to elaborate on their response with others in their corner before the instructor reveals the correct response.
  6. Sometimes the simple addition of randomization can breathe new life into the review. Prepare a handout of 20 open-ended review questions and put students in small groups. Give each group a 20-sided die. Each student has to answer the question matching the number just rolled, while his/her group members elaborate on or correct their peer’s response.
  7. Students can also work in Interview Pairs. Students take turns asking a series of instructor-prepared review questions and write down the answers their interviewee gives. Then, they verify the accuracy of their partner’s information through discussion with a new partner and/or by consulting course materials.

For students that request additional help in their exams, share these downloadable resources from the Academic Success Center’s Exam Preparation webpage:

As well as, academic coaching, tutoring, and more available from the Academic Success Center website or call 515-294-6624.


Sara Marcketti, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

A special thank you to Stacey Weber-Feve for collecting ideas from colleagues in the World Languages and Cultures Department: Ghinwa Alameen, Ling Cai, Melissa Deininger, Julia Dominguez, Neysa Goodman, Marta Vessoni de Lence, Beth Martin, Megan Myers, Jennifer Musgrove, Jean-Pierre Taoutel, Stacey Weber-Feve, Julie Wilhelm, and Shenglan Zhang.

Bord, D. (2008, Jan. 1). Enhancing learning and exam preparation. Observer Magazine, Association for Psychological Science. Retrieved from

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: The 10,000-hour rule applied to improving your teaching (March 28, 2019 – Constant Contact) website.

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