Classroom Assessment Techniques
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) include a variety of formative assessment techniques based upon a learner-centered, context-specific approach to instruction developed by Angelo and Cross (1993) that focuses on soliciting qualitative responses from students. CATs are based upon the assumption that the type of assessment most likely to improve teaching and learning is one conducted by instructors to answer questions they develop that are directly related to their instructional context. Cross and Angelo describe seven characteristics of CATs.
Suggested uses of CATs:
- Formative assessment of instructional activities including lectures, assignments, exercises, quizzes and exams.
- Assessing changes in instructional practice, especially when used as part of a single-group experiment.
- Gaining insight into student attitudes about course content and assignments as well as student satisfaction with quizzes, exams, and the course in general.
- Measuring the effects of an instructional activity or innovation when used as part of a single-group experiment.
Limitations of CATs:
- Not suitable for summative evaluation or for assessing individual student performance.
- Individual CATs are not universally applicable to all instructional contexts.
- Should not be used to evaluate an instructional program unless used in conjunction with other methods.
The resources required to implement this method vary greatly depending on the technique used. Browse the CATs by time and energy required .
Planning your CAT
STEP 1. Describe the context
Write a brief description of the instructional context. This description might include the age, majors, educational background, motivation level, and skill levels of your students. Other information to consider is central goals of the course, resources available, and how the instructional setting and larger organizational setting impact your course. A worksheet is available to help you document your instructional context.
STEP 2. Identify stakeholder needs and develop central questions
Develop central questions based on your needs and the needs of your students. Identify what is most essential for students to learn and accomplish in your course, and your most pressing needs. Central questions specify what you would like to find out through an assessment. For example, "How well do students understand complex concepts in my course?" A worksheet is available to help you identify stakeholder needs and develop central questions.
STEP 3. Determine the purpose of your assessment
Your assessment should have a clear purpose and focus. Avoid the temptation to accomplish too much with one assessment. For example, a CAT may help identify instruction areas for mid-course adjustment or help students synthesize and summarize information. It is unlikely, however, that the same CAT will accomplish both these aims. Determine if you are primarily interested in gaining insight, changing a course practice, or measuring the effects of a change you have already implemented. A worksheet is available to help you develop and refine your study’s purposes and how you will use results.
STEP 4. Determine how you will use the results.
How you intend to use results should guide which CAT you choose. If you are unsure how an assessment could potentially improve learning or instruction, it is best not to conduct it. How you use results should be linked to your central questions and should take into consideration the resources available to implement changes. Browse the CATs by instructional goal.
STEP 5. Choose a CAT
Select a CAT appropriate to your context, purpose, and use that will answer your central questions and plan its implementation. See Angelo and Cross (1993) for a complete description of all 50 CATs including their suggested uses.
For a quick start on using CATs, see our Nine easy to use CATs pdf.
Angelo, T.A. and K.P. Cross. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.