Improving the Exit Ticket

The exit ticket is used often in the classroom as a quick method for assessing student understanding and performance for a (usually) simple task. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the exit ticket, they usually work something like this:

As students pack up their things and prepare to leave the classroom, they are provided a sticky note, an index card, or maybe just a ¼ sheet of paper. The teacher poses a question from the current lesson that usually requires a short response. Students are to jot down their answer and leave it somewhere (stuck to the board or maybe in a basket) on their way out. Their answer is their ticket to exit.

Teachers look at these tickets to gauge student understanding of the material presented. If, in general, the class performs well, maybe tomorrow’s lesson will include less class time reviewing this material. If, in general, the class performs poorly, the teacher may begin class with a rehashing of the material before moving on. 

Simple, yet effective…or so it seems. But maybe there is a problem with this traditional usage of the exit ticket. 

When assessment occurs during or immediately following a lesson, we receive a somewhat inaccurate measure of what students know. From Bjork and Bjork, it is important to understand the difference between performance and learning. Performance is “what we can observe and measure during instruction or training.” Learning is “the more or less permanent change in knowledge or understanding that is the target of instruction.” In other words, performance is what we can do in the moment and learning is what we can recall after a more extended period of time. When assessment occurs during or immediately following a lesson, we’re not really finding out what students know. In reality, this only shows whether a student was paying attention and could regurgitate the material somewhat immediately. Now, don’t get me wrong, selectively attending to the presentation of material is a necessity for learning, but it isn’t everything. It is a step in the process of learning. 

If teachers use exit tickets traditionally, they may inaccurately assume students properly understand information they really don’t. Students have performed well, but true learning hasn’t necessarily occurred. This assumption of learning can have a negative effect on the classroom both in the moment and during the planning of future lessons. 

Obviously, in the classroom, performance is not the goal. True, honest assessment and learning are what we strive to provide. 

So, how can the exit ticket be improved upon? How can it be a more effective assessment of learning?

  1. Allow time for forgetting. The main problem with the traditional usage of the exit ticket is that there’s no time to forget, which leads to the measuring of performance and not learning. Contrary to popular belief, allowing for time to forget actually creates a more beneficial scenario for a more accurate assessment of learning. So, instead of assessing with the exit ticket that day’s lesson, why not ask what they remember from a previous lesson? I find this is incredibly effective if that information ties in to what was covered in class that day. So, maybe in a history classroom, instead of asking for facts about a battle of the Civil War that was covered that day in class, you ask students to remember what actions lead to the start of the battle, which was taught a few lessons before. 
  2. Opt for an entrance ticket. Instead of assessing the day’s lesson as they leave, provide students with an index card (or sticky note or whatever) on their way in the next day and assess their knowledge then. Asking those same questions twenty-four hours after the lesson is much more indicative of their true level of understanding. 
  3. Ask for predictions. As they exit, instead of asking about what they learned that day, ask for predictions of where they think tomorrow’s lesson is going. What’s next? And, while this sort of predicting lends itself more to some disciplines than others, it can be a really effective method for starting a class discussion the next day…”Josh, you wrote on your exit ticket yesterday, that you believe the soldiers will next retreat and search for provisions. What makes you think that?” 

While we don’t really need to throw the baby out with the bathwater as it pertains to exit tickets, there are more efficient and effective ways to use them. 

Can you think of other methods to better use the exit ticket? Please add a comment below.


Feature image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.

4 thoughts on “Improving the Exit Ticket

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  1. I’ve always thought Exit Tickets were a meaningless admin tasks for teachers – handing them out then collecting them back in – only to discover that some students could/couldn’t retrieve information; made worse by the heightened frenzy of doing it all at the end of a lesson when teachers/students were moving location or more keen to reach breaktime/canteen hall etc.

    Some GREAT alternatives to tweaking an old idea using cognitive science. Good job!

  2. Great piece. I agree 100% with you from the standpoint of “assessing learning”; not as effective as we’d like it to be. I love your alternatives…going to pass them along. However, I believe there is still great value in Exit Tickets from an assessing instruction standpoint. I firmly believe in feedback driven by the student to the teacher, and exit tickets provide some low stakes/high impact opportunities for students to provide the teacher some insights into how the lesson landed.

    Something like…
    1. I liked it best when you…
    2. My favorite part of today’s lesson…
    3. One thing you should change is…
    4. You should know that …

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