Focused Listing (ALC)
This KB document is part of a larger collection of documents on active learning activities that take place in Active Learning Classrooms (ALC). More Active Learning documents
Using Focused Listing activities to check students' prior knowledge in an Active Learning Classroom
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Focused Listing directs students’ attention to a single relevant term, name, or concept from a particular lesson or class session and asks them to list several ideas that are closely related to that focal point. It is useful to quickly determine what learners recall as the essential points of a particular topic.
Use it when you want...
- To assess how well students can describe central points in a lesson,
- To illuminate the connections students make between topics, or
- To help students learn to focus attention and improve recall, mainly when you introduce a large amount of new information.
What students will need
- Laptop, tablet, or mobile phone
- Classroom with campus wireless connection
The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate a Focused Listing learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom (ALC).
- Decide when the activity will take place (before, during, or after a relevant lesson). Use the results to gauge the best starting point, make midpoint corrections, or measure the class’s progress in learning one specific element of the course content.
- Select a topic or concept that the class has just studied or will study and describe it in a word or phrase.
- Create a Google Slide doc and type that word or phrase at the top of the slide as a heading of related terms critical to understanding that topic.
- Duplicate the slide so there is one for each table.
- Determine a time and item limit.
- Based on the time and item limit set, test it out by making a list of words and phrases you can recall that are related to and subsumed by your heading.
- Review your list, looking for any items you may have left out.
- Note the URL for the slide so you can share it with students in class.
- Present the topic to students and ask them to create their list using their slide in the Google Slides you provide. You can also consider Using Top Hat to Report Results from Group Activities to report results.
- At each table, have students assign someone at each table to be a scribe and add the students' names at the top of the slide.
- Give students a time limit for their responses.
- To ensure everyone at the table participates, direct students to spend one to two minutes working independently on their own list. When ready, take turns around the table and have each student share his/her list for the scribe to record.
- Upon completion of the activity, call on one or two tables to present their findings in Google Slides or Top Hat. Ask the rest of the class if they had items that were not represented by the reporting groups.
- Use results to guide another activity in response.
- Review the outcomes of the activity in the Google Slides from each table.
Accessibility and Room Considerations
An Investments: Finance / Management professor wants to use Focused Listing after an introductory lecture on stocks. He asks students at each table to list and quickly define five to seven fundamental concepts related to stocks using a shared Google Slide. Since they are writing brief definitions in addition to listing ideas they recall, he allows the class ten minutes. At the end of the activity, he calls on two tables to report out results and then asks the remaining tables if they had findings that were not reflected in the list from the reporting tables. Reflecting on the results, he found that more than half of the students had listed and adequately defined at least three of the six concepts; some of the students had included other important and valid concepts that were not on his list. At the next class meeting, the professor gives out a printed list of some of the best definitions and reviews the three fundamental concepts from his list that had not been included by most students. The experience leads him to end each session by reviewing several key concepts and terms that students should focus on throughout the lecture (Modified from Angelo 127).
Over the years, the professor in Introductory Physics for Non-Science Majors had found that many first-year students had problems with the specialized vocabulary used in the course. To respond to this challenge, she developed a Focused Listing activity to assess her students' knowledge of critical terminology and raise their awareness of the important information and concepts represented by those terms. On the first day of class, she asked students at each table to create a list of five words or phrases that define work in physics using a shared Google Slide. She asked one or two tables to report their results and then reviewed the remaining slides. After class, she reviewed the responses and sorted them into three piles: 1) those that do at least a reasonably good job of defining work in physics; 2) those that confuse work in physics with work in everyday life; and 3) all other responses. She pulls out some examples to quote in her next lecture. She explains and differentiates the two distinct but easily confused meanings of work: the everyday and the scientific. Throughout the semester, she uses Focused Listing to assess and help students learn other key concepts, such as mass, velocity, energy, impulse, and momentum (Modified from Angelo 127).
Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 126-131.