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Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are short exercises that provide an instructor with various forms of information about the students in the class. The CATs book (see citation below) contains 50 of these exercises and is available in the CELT library. Each technique has a description and purpose, suggestions for use (with a few examples from different disciplines), step-by-step procedure, advice on interpreting the data, ideas for modifying the technique, pros, cons, and caveats. Most are fairly easy and fast in terms of preparation, implementation, and interpretation.

The exercises are divided into three categories:  1) techniques for assessing course-related knowledge and skills (prior knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis, and problem-solving), 2) techniques for assessing student attitudes, values, and self-awareness as learners, and 3) techniques for assessing student reactions to instruction and course content.

These techniques are characterized as being formative, ongoing, context-specific, learner-centered, teacher-directed, and mutually beneficial to both instructor and student.

The steps involved with their use include choosing a class goal to assess, selecting an appropriate CAT, collecting classroom data, analyzing and interpreting the results, communicating the results to the students, making teaching adjustments based on the feedback, and evaluating if that made a difference in learning.

Examples of CATs include:

  • Misconception/Preconception Check:  Intended to uncover prior knowledge or beliefs that may hinder or block new learning
  • Muddiest Point:  Students respond to the question "What was the most unclear or confusing point in (lecture, homework, discussion)?"
  • Application Cards:  Students generate examples of real-world applications for important principles, generalizations, theories, or procedures
  • Process Analysis: Students outline the process they take in completing an assignment
  • Group Instructional Feedback Technique: Students respond to three questions related to their learning in the course (basically, what works, what doesn't, and how can it be improved)


A complete list of CATs is available here.



CELT Library:

Angelo, T. & Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd Edition). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.



Pennsylvania State University