Cross and Angelo (1993) describe seven characteristics of CATs:
- Learner-centered: CATs focus the primary attention of instructors and students on observing and improving learning rather than instruction. To improve learning it may be necessary to focus on student behaviors and how students learn rather than instructor behaviors and practices. If the goal is for students to become life-long learners, then they must learn to take responsibility for their own instruction.
- Instructor-directed : CATs respect the autonomy, academic freedom, and professional judgment of instructors by placing the responsibility for assessment with them. It is the instructor who decides what to assess, how to assess, how to respond to the results, and with whom to share the results.
- Mutually beneficial: CATs benefit students by promoting their active participation in the instructional process. By participating in assessment, they reinforce their grasp of course content and strengthen their own self-assessment skills. Instructors sharpen their teaching skills by continually asking themselves: a. "What are the essential skills and knowledge I am trying to teach?" b. "How can I find out whether students are learning the essential skills and knowledge?" c. "How can I help students learn better?"
- Formative : Because the purpose is to improve learning, rather than evaluate students or instructors, all feedback should be anonymous and ungraded.
- Context-specific : CATs are designed to respond to the particular needs and characteristics of the instructors, students, and disciplines to which they are applied. Because each technique is context specific, each has particular uses and contexts for which it is best suited and what works well in one context may not work at all in another. It is important, therefore, that instructors carefully choose a CAT well suited to their instructional context.
- Ongoing: Instructional assessment is an ongoing process, and CATs are well suited to providing regular feedback about student learning. Ideally, CATs (and other assessment methods) should be seamlessly integrated into regular classroom activity.
- Based on instructional best practices: CATs build on existing best practices by making the assessment of student learning more systematic, flexible and regular. Assessing student knowledge prior to instruction helps instructors tailor class activities to student needs. Assessment during a presentation helps instructors ensure that students are learning the content satisfactorily. Using CATs immediately after instruction helps to reinforce the material taught and uncover any misunderstanding of the content before it becomes a significant barrier to progress.
Angelo, T.A. and K.P. Cross. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.