Classroom Assessment Techniques

Computer Science students in class at Halligan Hall (Kelvin Ma/Tufts University)

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) support the best practice of gathering ongoing feedback about your students’ learning and your teaching. Classroom Assessment Techniques are formative assessments that provide low-stakes opportunities to measure student knowledge and skills. CATs are un-graded, in-class activities, and are often set up so that students can respond anonymously. It can be useful to share feedback gathered in one class in a subsequent class, as it helps students know you value their feedback and are using it to shape their learning. The beauty of a Classroom Assessment Technique is that you don’t need to grade students individually, but rather, you can glance at the overall student responses. This allows you to provide feedback to the class as a whole, and suggest areas for students to target to strengthen their learning.

These short example CATs will get you started —

Minute Paper

  • Set aside two-to-five minutes of class time to ask students to respond to a question or two.
    • If your focus is on prior homework, ask the questions at the beginning of class. 
    • If you are providing an opportunity for students to integrate what they learned during class, ask them at the end of class.
  • Example questions could include:  
    • What is the most important thing you learned?
    • What questions do you still have?
  • You can collect these answers on small slips of paper, or by using a classroom-response system like Poll Everywhere, or have students just keep them in their notes and ask for a few examples out loud.
  • Specify whether you want responses to be in phrases, short sentences, etc.

For more information, see CELT’s Minute Paper

Muddiest Point

This technique provides valuable information with little time and energy required on your part —

  • A few minutes before the end of class, ask students to respond to the question “what is the muddiest point in …?” 
  • Clarify for students that the term “muddiest” means “most unclear” or “most confusing”, and let them know how much time to spend responding.
  • Have students write responses on slips of paper, and drop them in a ‘muddy point’ box as they leave class, or collect them in Canvas or with Poll Everywhere.
  • Address students’ feedback during the next class.

One-Sentence Summary

After introducing or covering a new topic, or at a point where you want students to synthesize something they’ve just learned, use a sentence summary to allow students to pause and integrate their learning –

  • Ask students to address a specific topic covered in class, and to answer the question: Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why? Have them to synthesize the information into a summary sentence.
  • A simpler alternative is to ask students to summarize the new topic in a single sentence, noting its interconnections to other course content, and its relevance to the course.

NOTE: Before doing this exercise with your students, do it yourself and observe how long it takes you to complete. Provide clear instructions to the students and allow them twice as much time to complete it.

Directed Paraphrase

  • Ask students to take a few minutes and describe a concept for a lay audience.
  • Have them hand in their response at the end of class, or share with each other as part of a discussion.

Concept Map

  • Ask students to graphically represent the relationships among concepts covered in a class or course.
  • While concepts are typically represented as nodes and relationships as lines, give students freedom to represent concepts and relationships in whichever graphic way they choose.
  • Concept maps can be generated with pen and paper, or with online tools such as Visual Understanding Environment (VUE).

For more information and examples of concept maps see Assessment Using Concept Mapping (SERC)

Empty Box Activity

  • This is another anonymous, brief writing activity which can help students insights, questions, and feedback with each other. See CELT’s Empty Box for the full activity description.

For more examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques see the handout:  50 Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATS) by Angelo and Cross, compiled by Kathryn Cunningham, MS Ed. and Deborah Moore, MS Ed. from Angelo,T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques 2nd edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

See Also

Assessment Techniques (Tufts)

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