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Focused Listing (ALC)

Using Focused Listing activities to check students' prior knowledge in an Active Learning Classroom
Time and Effort
Student Activity Time Low
Instructor Prep Time Low
Instructor Response Time Low
Complexity of Activity Low


Focused Listing directs students’ attention to a relevant term, name, or concept from a particular lesson or class session and asks them to list several ideas closely related to that focal point. It is helpful 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 to guide how to facilitate a Focused Listing learning activity within an Active Learning Classroom (ALC).


  • Decide when the activity will occur (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 by making a list of words and phrases you can recall 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 slides in your Google Slides. You can also consider Using Top Hat to Report Results from Group Activities to report results.
  • At each table, have students assign someone 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 lists. When ready, take turns around the table and have each student share his/her list for the scribe to record.
  • Upon completing 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 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

  • None

Technical Documentation


Example 1

An Investments: Finance / Management professor wants to use Focused Listing after an introductory lecture on stocks. At each table, he asked students to list and quickly define five to seven fundamental concepts related to stocks using a shared Google Slide. Since they were writing brief definitions and listing ideas they recalled, he allowed the class ten minutes. At the end of the activity, he called on two tables to report the results and asked the remaining tables if they had findings 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 had included other essential and valid concepts that were not on his list. At the next class meeting, the professor gave out a printed list of some of the best definitions and reviewed the three fundamental concepts from his list that most students had not included. The experience led him to end each session by reviewing several key concepts and terms students should focus on throughout the lecture (Modified from Angelo 127).

Example 2

Over the years, the professor in Introductory Physics for Non-Science Majors 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 vital 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 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 defining work in physics, 2) confuse work in physics with work in everyday life, and 3) all other responses. She pulls out some examples to quote in her following lecture. She explained and differentiated the two distinct but easily confused meanings of work: the every day and the scientific. Throughout the semester, she uses Focused Listing to assess and help students learn 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.

Keywordsfocused listing, active learning classroom, prior knowledge, checkDoc ID118482
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2022-05-10 15:03:58Updated2024-04-16 12:40:22
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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