Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Use of Note Cards in the Classroom

The index or note card can support learning in the classroom by helping instructors gather names, prior knowledge, misconceptions, and more. Through well-planned activities, instructors can gather formative feedback on student progress towards achieving particular learning outcomes with note cards, as well as obtain other useful information on their students. Such data on student learning can be used to design future instruction that addresses student misconceptions and learning challenges (Angelo and Cross, 1993). Some evidence even suggests that use of note cards in large lectures can promote student engagement and preparation for class (Broeckelman-Post, et. al 2016). Ultimately, instructors can consider where note cards may help them gather the most effective information for improving learning outcomes in their students.

Examples and Recommendations

  • General Student Feedback  - On the first day of class an instructor can use index cards to collect basic information from students such as their reasoning behind taking the course, learning goals, and any questions that they have about the course after reviewing the syllabus. The instructor can address anonymous questions during subsequent classes, and ask the students at the end of the course to revisit their learning goals to determine whether they have been achieved. Instructors should note that depending on amount of exposure, handwriting can become less anonymous as term progresses.
     
  • Immediate Feedback - Index cards can be used as audience responses systems. By using different colored card sets with the multiple choice letters A, B, C and D, etc., instructors can ask questions in class and have students hold up the card responding to their answer choice.  Students might be asked to bring their card sets to each class. Instructors can also use simpler options such as ABC note cards for classes made up of students that lack access to more complex response systems. Note cards can also be used as a backup if clicker technology does not work. This strategy is additionally beneficial in that index cards can be prepared at the beginning of the semester and saved for subsequent classes.
     
  • Muddiest Point - An instructor can ask students to write on a note card their “muddiest point,” or the topic or concept for which they are most confused. These cards can be collected and the instructor can sort them into groups and use them for feedback purposes. When patterns are evident within students’ responses, the instructor can consider designing future classroom sessions to address these conceptual challenges. This technique fosters student metacognition.
     
  • Group Assignments - Index cards are also an easy way for an instructor to assign groups. Random groups can be generated by passing out note cards corresponding to different group numbers.
     
  • Student Selection - If a student is needed to volunteer for a particular course assignment or activity, the instructor may consider using note cards with student names, and randomly pulling out one at a time to select students.
     
  • Student Voting - If an instructor would like for students to anonymously vote on a particular class issue, they can ask their learners to indicate their position on index cards and tally the responses. 

References

Angelo TA and Cross KP. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Instructors. Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco.

Broeckelman-Post, M., Johnson, A., and Schwebach, J. (2016). Calling on Students Using Notecards: Engagement and Countering Communication Anxiety in Large Lecture. Journal of College Science Teaching 45.5: 27-33.