Assessing Student Learning

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are instruments or tools for collecting data on student learning in order to improve it.  This approach is

  • Learner-centered 
  • Teacher-directed 
  • Mutually beneficial 
  • For formative assessment (often ungraded and/or anonymous)
  • Context specific
  • Ongoing 
  • Rooted in good teaching practice

A classic example of a CAT is the “Minute Paper,” in which you give students a minute (or up to five) to write answers to questions such as “What was the most important thing you learned during today’s class?” and “What important questions remain unanswered?” Other examples of CATs can be found on these websites:

Implementing CATs in your classroom

  • Plan how you will use CATs
    • Select a CAT
      • Determine the type of feedback desired
      • Identify an “assessable” question
    • Tell students what you are doing and why
    • Provide clear instructions
    • Allow extra time at first
  • Plan how will you interpret the results
    • Do a fast read-through
    • Sort, tally, tabulate
    • Calculate frequencies, percentages, etc.
    • Look for patterns
    • Make note of useful comments, insights, common problems, etc.
  • Plan what will you do with the results
    • Tell class about the results or prepare a handout
    • Let students know what adjustments you will make in your teaching
    • Let students know what they could do to improve their learning