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Directed Paraphrasing

In keeping with the theme of the teaching Tip entitled "Punctuated Lectures," Directed Paraphrasing is another classroom activity which helps students understand how they learn. This is an ideal activity for helping students put concepts into their own words, versus simply regurgitating the information. It's also a good strategy for holding them more accountable for reading an assignment. Directed Paraphrasing involves the following:

  • In writing, have students (paraphrase) explain in their own words a concept, part of a lesson, or homework assignment/reading, etc. for a specific audience or purpose. (The "paraphrase" part requires that the student create a new way to convey a concept. The specific audience to whom the paraphrase is "directed," reveals whether the student understands the concept within a specified framework.) For example, "a nursing student might be directed to paraphrase the concept of drug clearance by the kidneys to a worried patient. An economics student might be directed to paraphrase a point of tax policy to a corporate CEO. A philosophy student might be directed to paraphrase an ethics concept so that it is readily understood by a teenager (Cross and Angelo 233)."
  • Review and sort their responses into categories such as "on target," "okay," or "off target."
  • At the start of the next class session, share with the students how many responses were "on target" and read a few examples.
  • If only a third of your students provided "on target" responses, consider spending extra time either reviewing or having them apply the concept.


  1. Direct the students to paraphrase the same topic for two very different audiences, and then have them explain, in detail, the differences between the two paraphrases.
  2. Ask students to keep a journal of paraphrases as a summary of important topics in the course.
  3. Get an appropriate outside "expert" to comment on and assess some or all of the paraphrases and provide authentic feedback.


Angelo, Thomas A., and K. Patricia Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook For College Teachers. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey, 1993. Print.

Classroom Assessment Techniques, "CAT 4: Directed Paraphrasing (Assesses Skill in Application & Performance)." Faculty Center for Innovative Teaching, Central Michigan University. Nov. 2004. Web. 27 Nov. 2006.

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