2.4. Rethinking Rhythm / Moving First Exposure

After major assignments and assessments are in place, your next step in course design is to 
create detailed plans for how and when students will learn new information and complete the smaller assignments and activities. 
each step should clearly contribute to development of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will prepare students for success on high-stakes assessments

When planning the steps to successful completion of major assignments and assessments, we encourage you to adopt an interactive approach that engages students both in and out of class. In the table below, we divide the aspects of the learning process into 

  • First exposure - Students encounter information for the first time, e.g. by reading a text, listening to a lecture, watching a video, etc.
  • Process -   Students apply concepts, analyze using their new knowledge, begin solving problems, etc., and create some evidence of that activity.
  • Response - Instructor or peers provide feedback that advances thinking and the development of knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to the topic. 
Model In Class Student's Own Time Instructor's Own Time
Traditional First Exposure Process

Responses to all Assignments

Interactive Method Process; response to daily short assignments and guidance for longer assignments First exposure / some processing Responses to selected assignments

Walvoord, B.E., & Anderson, V.J (1981). Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment in college. John Wiley & Sons. 


The interactive method, as outlined in the table above, 

  • moves some portion of first exposure to course materials and processing to the students’ own time prior to the class session.
    • You can accomplish this by assigning readings, viewing of recorded mini-lectures, etc.; followed by a prep assignment in which students answer a question that requires them to apply the knowledge to begin to solve a problem, explain a relationship, compare and contrast competing ideas, etc. 
    • Students turn in this prep work prior to class, and it serves as both accountability and a starting point for in-class activities designed to extend and deepen students' thinking. 
    • Since students have had a chance to organize their thoughts before class, you can begin the activity by calling on specific students to share the prep work that they have done. 
      • Remember to inform students that this will be the method so that they aren’t surprised when you call on them. 
      • Be sure to engage all students over time.  
  • Activities that build on the prep work allow you to provide feedback to the entire class at the same time. 
    • You should be overt about this goal so that students are motivated to take notes and advance their thinking as a result of participation. 
    • Since students will be sharing their ideas in class, you don’t necessarily need to grade the prep work beforehand (though some instructors like to review submissions prior to class for insight into student thinking).
  • To keep the grading of these frequent low-stakes assignments manageable, we suggest that you grade using a credit or no-credit system.
    • This is much faster than even 3 categories 
    • Since they are low stakes (e.g. 1% of students’ final grade), there is no need to be overly concerned about differentiating between the best and good enough. 
    • There usually is no need to provide detailed individual feedback, since you have made it clear that the feedback is happening during the activity in class.


  • A history instructor asks their students to read two primary sources that are not in complete agreement. Students are asked to write 100 to 200 words making the case for the validity of one of the sources over the other for a specific point. 
  • A biology instructor has students read the text to learn new terminology and basic concepts, and has students complete a short, timed, online quiz prior to class.