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Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

Classroom assessment is "an approach designed to help teachers find out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning it" (Angelo and Cross 4).

Classroom assessment is:

  • learner-centered. It is designed to be used between teaching and testing to find out how well students are doing in time to help them improve.
  • teacher-directed. Because classroom assessment occurs in individuals' classrooms, faculty members make all the choices about implementation, including how to handle the results.
  • mutually beneficial. It clarifies learning for both the learner and the faculty member.
  • formative. The main purpose of classroom assessment is "to improve learning in progress by providing teachers with the kind of feedback they need to inform their day-to-day instructional decisions, and by providing students with information that can help them learn more effectively."
  • context-specific. The technique a faculty member chooses is selected, designed and used for a specific class for the benefit of that class.
  • on-going.
  • firmly rooted in good practice (Cross and Angelo 4-6). Classroom assessment techniques enhance student learning by focusing attention; by encouraging deep processing and connecting new learning to other information from the learner's background; and better enabling metacognition (i.e., students thinking about their learning and thinking).

To get the most out of using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs), consider the following tips:

  • Use CATs that appeal to your intuition and judgment. There are fifty CATs described in Cross and Angelo's book. Some will appeal to you more than others.
  • Start small. There are five CATs that have been promoted as excellent "introductory" CATs because they are flexible and adaptable, as well as simple and quick to apply.
    These CATs are:
    • The One-Minute Paper (CAT #6)
    • The Muddiest Point (CAT #7)
    • The One-Sentence Summary (CAT #13)
    • Directed Paraphrasing (CAT #23)
    • Application Cards (CAT #24)
  • Try the CAT on yourself first.
  • Allow sufficient time in your classroom schedule to conduct these assessments. Time is needed for both conducting the CAT and providing feedback to your class about the results.
  • Be sure to close the communication loop. Once you've shared what you learned from the CAT, then discuss how both you and the learners can use the information to improve your teaching and their learning.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachings (Second Edition), is an invaluable resource. The authors write, "This is a practical handbook, designed for easy reference and for readers with varied levels of experience with Classroom Assessment". (p. xv) Some of the key features of the book are described below. They include:

  • A "Teaching Goals Inventory," which is a survey to identify and rank the relative importance of faculty teaching goals according to six categories. (20-22)
  • A "Checklist for Avoiding Problems with CATs" to make sure you're prepared. (59)
  • Three indexes for finding CATs:
    • alphabetical index; (109)
    • examples by discipline; (110-112)
    • categorizing by Teaching Goals; (113-114)
  • Parallel descriptive elements for each of the CATs, including:
    • Name and number of the CAT.
    • Estimation of time and energy required for its use.
    • Description and purpose of the technique.
    • Related Teaching Goals.
    • Some suggestions for using each CAT, as well as examples of ways it has been used by others.
    • Step-by-step directions.
    • Suggestions for analyzing the feedback and what to do next.
    • Benefits and drawbacks of, as well as cautions about, each CAT.
    • Additional references and resources when applicable.

References:

Angelo, T. A., and Patricia K. Cross. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993. Print.

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