Edward Laine
Bowdoin College
Author Profile


The "carousel" is a classroom activity I use to assess how well students have absorbed the last week's material and/or how well prepared they are for an upcoming exam.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



I have used the carousel in introductory and upper level classes and with groups of college professors wishing to adopt service learning. It is good to have at least 10 students and it becomes unwieldy at about 50.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

No special skills or concepts are needed as this is an assessment tool to see how well students are learning.

How the activity is situated in the course

I use it twice in my introductory course. In the second week I use it to introduce students to the ideas and concepts they will be working with and about the seventh week I use it to see what needs to be reviewed for the mid term.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

I use this activity in an introductory classroom to assess how well students are mastering content, concepts, and goals. With college faculty I use it to get them to share their experiences with service learning, to enable them to talk about what appeals to them about this pedagogy, and to facilitate a frank discussion of some of their fears about taking a risk and trying a new approach in their classes.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Both times I use this technique in my introductory course it is with the intent of building community in the classroom. An outcome of this activity is reports from small groups to me about the state of mastery of key concepts, so this is also an opportunity to practice group work.

Description of the activity/assignment

The goal of this activity is for both me and the students to learn how well prepared they are for the mid term. In Wednesday's class I tell them we will be doing an assessment on Friday. For Friday I prepare a series of questions that cover the likely content of the mid term and print them out in large print, attaching them to self adhesive poster paper. I paste these up around the classroom and randomly break the class into teams of 3-5. Each team works on "their" question for ~8 minutes, answering the questions on the poster paper and adding what they are puzzled about. The each team moves to the next question/poster and works 3-5 minutes on it, absorbing what has been written and adding their own ideas and questions. The carousel continues to rotate every ~5 minutes until the teams arrive back at their original poster. Each team reads what has been written and prepares a summary. At this point the teams clarify items they do not understand. Monday's assignment for each team is to come to class with a better hand drawn poster and report to the class, answering some of the unanswered questions from Friday.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I use two items of assessment. The posters and reports tell me what the students are learning well and what may need more attention and perhaps review. While the activity goes I listen to the noise level and watch body language. Too much social noise and body movements tells me that the exercise has ceased to be productive and I speed up the carousel.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Clifford, J., 2000. Chapter 4: Building community in the classroom., in "Problem Based Service Learning: A Fieldguide for Making a Difference in Higher Education," Gordon, R (Ed.), Education by Design Program, Keene, NH., 43-56.