Teaching Handbook

CAT (Classroom Assessment Technique) Examples & Ideas

Classroom Assessment Technique Examples

Applications Cards | Approximate Analogies | Background Knowledge Probe |
Concept Maps | Directed Paraphrasing | Exit Slips | Invented Dialogues | Low-Stakes Quiz/Assignment |
Minute Paper | Muddiest Point | One-Sentence Summary | Pro-and-Con Grid

Application Cards

For this assessment, students are asked to give a practical, real-world example of how a concept or theory could potentially be applied. This is to be written on a note-card, and collected by the instructor. In addition to checking basic understanding, students are given the opportunity to both be creative, and link the concept back to prior learning or experiences.

Approximate Analogies

For this assessment, students are asked to complete the second half of an analogy. The first half is a key relationship or idea from the lecture, and the second half is meant to check overall understanding of the connection between different concepts. It can be as simple as "A is to B and X is to Y." For a variation, the instructor can provide three of the four possible blanks for students, leaving less possible answers. Approximate Analogies is useful due to the variety of responses it invites, the creativity it allows, and how quickly it can be administered.

Background Knowledge Probe

Unlike most CATs, this assessment takes place at the start of a unit or lesson. As well, it requires a decent amount of work ahead of time on the part of the instructor. After creating a baseline assessment for the information that will be covered in a specific lesson or unit, give it to the students. From the assessment, students are shown what is important and will be covered in the following class sessions. The instructor is able to use this information to see in general how knowledge a class is on a specific topic, common misunderstandings, and what ideas may need less coverage (or can be skipped altogether).

Concept Maps

This assessment helps students draw connections between a larger concept and numerous smaller, related ones and works really well to show different relationships between ideas. It also is useful for demonstrating relative importance of different ideas and makes the learning visual. For students, this can be really instrumental in understanding how existing knowledge fits with new ideas. For professors, the information gathered can be used to see how well students are at connecting ideas, and when would be best to introduce a new concept.

  • Classroom Assessment Techniques - Concept Maps, Center for Instructional Innovation & Assessment video module by Karen Stout, Western Washington University.
  • How to Make a Concept Map, pdf from University of Akron.
  • Using Concept Maps, Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University.

Directed Paraphrasing

For this assessment, students are asked to explain a specific idea or concept in a constrained format, usually to a specific audience. For this assessment, students have to not only be able to show they understand a concept well enough to explain it succinctly, but as well using language appropriate to whom they are writing for. This works extremely well in disciplines where people are often expected to explain concepts to those outside of their profession, and those that have a public aspect.

Exit Slip

Metacognition is a central component of exit slips, which ask students to report on what they have learned, either through guided or open-ended reflection, before leaving a class or lesson. The information students provide in an exit slip can help instructors identify any remaining misconceptions that might need to be addressed and well as identify those areas students are grasping most thoroughly. When pairing or group students, exit slips can be used to identify both struggling and master students so they can be distributed or matched as needed. Exit slips have the added benefit of tracking which students stay through the end of class and, when used as a low-stakes assignment, can therefore encourage them to avoid leaving early.

Invented Dialogues

For this assessment, students are tasked to create a conversation between two or more characters about a specific topic. Students need to be able to show their overall understanding through synthesis. It can be done in one of two ways - students can either completely create the dialogue (giving a chance for creativity to shine), or use specific quotes within their dialogue. It works extremely well with humanities classes, and instructors are given a lot of influence over the topic, personalities, and length.

Low Stakes Quiz/Assignments

The main idea behind low-stakes quizzes or assignments is to give students an opportunity to practice skills or check understanding without too much pressure. Low-stakes assignments and quizzes provide enough incentive that students are motivated to work hard at them but are also minimal enough risk that students won't feel discouraged by low scores or grades. Low-stakes assignments are particularly useful as stepping stones toward larger-stakes assignments.

Minute Paper

For this assessment, in the last two-to-three minutes of class, students are asked to briefly answer two questions - "What's the most important thing you learned in class today?" and "What are you still wondering about?" The actual questions can be altered based off of the specific lesson or instructor preference. Through this assessment, students reflect back on what they learned in the lesson, and what they are still wanting to know more about. Instructors gain valuable knowledge through the questions, such as what their students are finding most important, what ideas are not being covered thoroughly, and what questions students are having after a lesson. All of this data can be used to alter later lessons.

Muddiest Point

For this assessment, students are asked simply to answer the question, "What was the muddiest point in this lesson?" The Muddiest Point can be adapted beyond just a lecture or lesson by asking about anything from a homework assignment or an in-class discussion to a movie. With this CAT, students are tasked with looking into what they do not understand, and articulate it quickly. Due the focused nature of the question, and its versatility, it provides very specific evidence about what students found confusing to the instructor.

One-Sentence Summary

For this assessment, students are asked to answer the question "Who does what to whom, when, where, how and why?" in a single sentence. This is typically done towards the end of a specific topic. Instructors are able to quickly see which of the questions is confusing the students, and can change later lessons accordingly. For students, they get practice with both summarizing larger ideas, and with chunking ideas.

Pro-and-Con Grid

For this assessment, students are asked to create a list of pros and cons about a specific statement or idea. This CAT works well in classes that do not deal in absolutes, such as many humanities, social sciences, and public policy classes. While completing this, students are forced to take a deeper look at an issue, and examine the other point of view (as well as weigh the comparative values). Instructors are able to easily check to see general understanding of an idea, the breadth and depth of student knowledge, and how objective the students are.

    Quick and Simple Active Learning Techniques: Pro/Con Grid, Office of Professional Development, IUPUI.

All of the information pertaining to the descriptions of the various CATs was adapted from the following sources.

1. Angelo, T. & Cross, P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College TeachersSan Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

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