Navigating the (sometimes) rocky shores
of teaching and consulting
Classroom Assessment Techniques (aka “CATs”)
What is a CAT? And what is it not?
A CAT is a simple tool for collecting data on student learning in order to improve it.
A CAT is a simple tool for collecting data on student learning in order to improve it. A CAT is a “feedback device” that a teacher can use to find out how well students are learning, how they are learning, and how much they are learning. The feedback is immediate. It can provide as much information about how and how well a teacher is teaching as it can about student learning. Regular use of CATs helps students focus more effectively during class and gives them practice in monitoring their own learning.
A CAT is a formative evaluation device. It is not graded.
It is not a substitute for teaching.
Examples of CATs
The simplest, most flexible CATs are:
1.The Minute Paper - the teacher stops class one or two minutes early and asks students to respond briefly in writing to the following questions: “What was the most important thing you learned during this class” and “What important question remains unanswered for you?”
2. The Muddiest Point – a variation of the minute paper, students describe what was most confusing about a particular lesson or topic.
3. The One-Sentence Summary – students summarize their knowledge of a topic in one sentence that answers Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?”
4. Directed Paraphrasing – students write a layperson’s translation of what they have learned, designed to communicate to a specific individual or audience.
5. Applications Cards - after learning about an important theory, principle, or procedure, students write at least one real-world application of what they have learned.
6. Visible Quiz – students work in pairs or small groups to discuss the appropriate response to a displayed quiz question. The answers are multiple choice or true false. Upon a signal, each group displays the team’s choice.
Links to CAT resources
What is the role of the classroom response systems (“clickers”) in CATs?
The classroom response system makes it easy and quick to implement a visible quiz. eInstruction is the brand name of the classroom response system offered by Purdue. Through the careful use of well-designed and properly timed questions a teacher can immediately learn if the class has understood a lesson and modify the course of the discussion to address knowledge gaps or misconceptions, one goal of a CAT.
When to use or recommend CATs
The use of CATs may be recommended when Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID) results, teacher perceptions, informal student feedback, peer observation, or analysis of student evaluations show that
o students perceive lectures as confusing, boring, not relevant or other negative comments
o students do not have the opportunity to ask questions, feel hesitant to ask questions in class
o students seem restless and inattentive to lecture or unenthusiastic and confused by classroom activities (there could be other causes of this behavior, but the use of a CAT can help the teacher focus communication and activity)
o teacher expresses surprise and/or disappointment at students’ performance on quizzes or tests, homework, or labs
o teacher expresses a sense of disconnection with students in the classroom; boredom in the classroom
To be effective CATs should be used regularly. As a consultant working with a teacher to realize the benefits of CATs, you should plan to observe the use of the CATs at least twice, and preferably Evaluating the implementation of a CAT
o Does the technique seem appropriate to the subject matter of the course and to the instructional objectives of the lesson or the course?
o Has the teached tried out a chosen technique on him/herself before using it in the classroom?
o Did the teacher announce the use of the CAT ahead of time?
o Do the students appear to understand the purpose of the CAT?
o Do the students understand that it is not a graded activity and that it is anonymous?
o Do the students follow the procedure as it was explained?
o Did the length of time allowed seem sufficient for the CAT that was used?
o Did the teacher read the responses quickly immediately following the class or at least on the same day? (first “read through”)
o Did the teacher analyze the responses in more depth before the next class meeting?
o Did the teacher tell the class the results of the CAT at the next class meeting?
o Did the teacher state what adjustments you will make as a result of the CAT or what changes you expect from the students?
o Did the teacher make the adjustments you promised?
o Does the teacher use the CAT regularly?
Evaluating the effectiveness of a CAT
o Does the teacher’s response flow logically from the analysis of student responses?
o Will the response, in your view, effectively address any concerns that students’ express?
o Is the teacher’s response emotional rather than analytical or rational?
o Does the teacher make the adjustments promised?
Source for this guide:
Angelo, T. and Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques. Jossey-Bass (available in the CELT Library, KT 234).