These brief, informal exercises provide a way for instructors to determine if a particular teaching strategy is working or not, to understand how students think about their own learning, and to monitor progress toward learning objectives. In Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (2nd ed., 1993), Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross outline 50 CATs that can be applied in different situations for a range of purposes.

Brief descriptions of four of these techniques appear below.

  • Minute Paper. At the beginning or end of a class period, ask students to write half a page in response to some variation of the questions “What was the most important thing you learned during this class?” and “What important question remains unanswered?”
  • Goal Ranking and Matching. Ask students to list three to five goals they hope to achieve by taking your class, and rank them in order of importance. Administering this CAT early in the semester allows you to assess the “degree of fit” between students’ self-identified learning goals and the learning outcomes articulated in the syllabus.
  • Muddiest Point. Students jot down a quick response to the question “What is the muddiest point in [unit of content you have just covered]?” This CAT offers an economical means of identifying concepts or topics that are challenging to students.
  • One-Sentence Summary. Ask students to summarize important content by first answering the question “Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?” and then reframing that information as a declarative sentence. This tests students’ ability to distill and synthesize essential information.