Guest Contributor: Bridgett McGowen-Hawkins, Senior Professional Educator, TeamUP Cengage Learning Peer-to-Peer Faculty Development.

Not again! Your professor has decided it’s time to “hear from you” and make class more active, and you automatically think “Why can’t I just sit and listen to the lecture?!”


They’re not trying to make you uncomfortable or fill class time because they have nothing to say. There’s a definite method to the madness.


Educators engage in activities such as attending conferences, reading articles, and chatting with colleagues about what works in the classroom, and as such, they have specific, research-based reasons for wanting to move their students from being passive to active participants in course proceedings.


So what’s in it for you? Why should you turn yourself into a willing participant when, in the middle of a lecture, you hear the words “Let’s get into groups!”


Here are five reasons students should wholeheartedly engage in in-class formative assessment activities:


1. It feels like the professor cares that you learn!: You’ve been in classes where it feels like the professor is standing at the podium for the sole purpose of plowing through an hour (or more!) of material with little regard for what you think and whether you understand. When your professor takes the time to actually create and institute in-class activities that allow you to understand, analyze, and ask questions about the course material, take advantage of it! It means he/she is interested in ensuring you actually learn.


2. You no longer have to wait until the night before the test to see if you know it!: When your professors perform formative assessments in class; that is, when they have you engage in in-class activities such as asking you questions about the lecture, readings from the textbook, or other course material and then having you hold conversations with your classmates, jot down comments, or move around the room in search of answers to those questions, doing so gives you the opportunity to process the information and actually reflect on how well you understand the course content. Instead of just sitting in class each day hoping you get it, engage with your classmates and walk out each class session knowing you get it.


3. You know exactly what to study!: And in those instances where you engage in formative assessment activities in class and find yourself having not performed so well, you can use that as a mental cue for what to study when you prepare for the next class meeting or your next test. As opposed to studying everything, you have an idea of those topics that require merely a quick review and those that require more in-depth attention. You know where to focus your energies, so studying is no longer a shot in the dark.


4. You’ll find out your thinking is not totally off!: Sometimes it doesn’t have to be a foreign language class for the material to sound Greek. If only you could lean over and ask your neighbor “WHAT WAS THAT?!” without feeling embarrassed. Engaging in the formative assessments your professor provides lets you discuss the content with others; not only will you see you may not have been alone in your thinking, but you’ll also have an occasion to kibitz with your classmates and gain some clarification.


5. It makes class more interesting!: In larger classes, it’s easy to mentally and physically hide or totally checkout, but that can make for a pretty boring existence, especially if that’s not your personality. (And would you really want to do that every class every week for an entire term?!) It’s no secret time flies when you’re having fun, when you’re in a state of flow. Engaging in the activities your professor plans for the class makes learning more interesting, and it might even serve an unintended purpose by giving you an intellectual conversation piece for that cutie across the room on which you’ve had your eye!



Bridgett McGowen-Hawkins is a Senior Professional Educator with TeamUP at Cengage Learning, and she teaches for the Associate’s Program at the University of Phoenix. 


INSTRUCTORS: See some of Bridgett’s other projects as well as more information on this blog topic by visiting the TeamUP Professional Development Portal and conducting a search for “assessment.”