Empty Outlines (classroom)

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Facilitating Empty Outlines active learning activities in a classroom.

Time and Effort

Instructor Prep TimeMedium
Student Activity TimeLow
Instructor Response TimeMedium
Complexity of ActivityMedium


Empty Outlines has the instructor provide students with a blank or partially completed outline of a presentation or assignment and gives students a limited amount of time to fill in the outline.


Use it when you want...

  • To find out whether students have identified the critical points in a lecture, reading, or other types of assignment, or
  • To help students recall and organize the main points of a lesson within an appropriate knowledge structure — aiding retention and understanding.

What students will need

  • Laptop, or tablet, or mobile phone
  • Classroom with campus wireless connection


The following workflow is meant as guidance for how you can facilitate an Empty Outlines learning activity within a classroom.


  • Create an outline of the lecture, presentation, discussion, or reading on which to base the assignment. Decide the level on which you will focus the activity and, thus, the students’ attention.
  • Decide if students are to supply the main topics, the main subtopics, or the supporting details? These decisions will determine what information you provide and what you leave out.
  • Create a template of the outline for students.


  • Have students work in pairs to complete the activity.
  • When students complete the form from memory — without notes or other information — limit the number of items the activity elicits to fewer than ten.
  • Let students know how much time they will have to complete the outlines and the desired responses (words, short phrases, or brief sentences).
  • Announce the purpose of the assignment and when the students will receive feedback on their responses.


  • Review outlines.
  • Provide feedback/grade to group participants.

Accessibility and Room Considerations

Technical Documentation


Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: a Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass, 1993. pp. 138-141.

See Also:

Keywords:empty outlines, prior knowledge, active learning, classroom   Doc ID:104170
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-20 14:24 CSTUpdated:2021-08-20 13:20 CST
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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