ICE Model of Learning

The ICE model of learning is broken down into Ideas, Connections, and Extensions. This is a classification on the levels of thinking similar to Bloom’s Taxonomy. Students who can demonstrate knowledge at the
ideas level are able to recall basic facts, definitions, vocabulary, steps…etc. Students can make connections by linking their knowledge to themselves (create personal meaning), or to other ideas in the course. Extensions is the highest level of thinking; it refers to the use of ideas in a new or novel way that can be far removed from its original context – an “AHA” or “SO WHAT?” moment, so to speak.

My first exposure to the ICE model was in a second year drama course I took called “Theatre in the Age of Film and Television” – a phenomenal course with an incredibly challenging, relevant, and valuable assessment method. Our course grade was based on how we did on a series of what my instructor called “ICE Assignments.” Though short in length (1-2 pages), these assignments not only required students to understand basic ideas talked about in lecture, but asked them to think and reflect on these ideas critically and connect them to the world in meaningful ways. Sounds simple, but a well-written and well-thought out ideas, connections, and extensions paper involves a great deal of rigor. What is especially appealing about this method of assessment is that it is incredibly adaptable (i.e. “cross-disciplinary” in teacher jargon), and it allowed our instructor to offer us choice in the topics we chose to write about after each unit. Not only did we spend an entire lecture discussing the ICE assignments and grading, we were also given exemplars of level 1, 2, 3 and 4 work after every assignment had been graded. Moreover, the instructor offered a clear, consistent, qualitative rubric that described exactly how to move from one level to the next (e.g. from connections to extensions). Needless to say, the ICE assignments really engaged me with the course content, and offered me a chance to reflect on my learning in ways that made complete sense, and yet left me wondering why I hadn’t started using ICE to think about my learning earlier! 

My second exposure to the ICE methodology was, of course, in one of my education courses. Instead of using it as a summative assessment tool (assessment of learning),  my instructor choose to use it as a formative tool (assessment as and of learning. She briefly explained to us what each category in the ICE model represented (posed in a series of guiding questions) and after each class, we would be asked to write down 2-3 ideas, connections, and extensions we learned that day in the class:

  1. Ideas – What information did I learn?
  2. Connections – How do I plan to use this in my classroom?
  3. Extensions – What other questions do I have about this idea? 

As one can see, the use of the ICE model here is not as involved as the ICE assignments described above. Here, it is used as a meta-cognitive framework that helps students move beyond surface processing of new ideas, to a deeper level of cognitive thinking.  

Use of the ICE model in the classroom can take a variety of forms (summative v. formative), and can also range in complexity. If you’re interested in learning more about the effective use of the ICE model in classroom assessment I recommend this paper by Sue Fostaty Young. She also writes about developing rubric criteria with students. It’s a very interesting read. Have you used the ICE model of learning in your classroom? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!


Young, Sue Fostaty. 2005. 
Teaching, learning, and assessment in higher education: Using ICE to improve student learning. Proceedings of the Improving Student Learning Symposium 13: 105-115.

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