Let's Talk About CATs!

Anyone who knows me knows I love cats, but I am not talking about those cuddly furry critters here. Instead, I am talking about Classroom Assessment Techniques or CATs. These are easy to use and implement in your class to collect great data about whether your students are learning, where they are stuck or confused, and also about your teaching.

What is even better is you don’t have to re-invent the wheel because Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross did it for you in their book, Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Although the 2nd edition was published in 1993, the tools it provides are still invaluable in helping us determine whether our students are learning and whether we are effective as teachers. The other aspect I like about this book is that it is written specifically for those of us teaching in higher education. In general, most practical based teaching books tend to focus on primary and secondary education levels. 

The question of whether we are effective as teachers is one we should always be asking ourselves. In addition to self-reflecting, it is equally important to gather data consistently about our teaching. Although there are many ways to do this, including activities that obtain feedback directly from our students as part of the class can help us evaluate how well we did and whether our students learned. This type of feedback is immediate and very helpful as we continue to grow as teachers.

The techniques provided in the Classroom Assessment Technique book can be easily integrated, modified or adapted. They are designed for just about anything you want to assess, such as whether students learned content-specific information, whether their attitudes and values have changed, what their pre-knowledge or opinions are prior to teaching a particular content or their reactions to class activities or assignments.

For those who are familiar with Visible Thinking Routines, CATs can be an excellent addition at the end of class to assess the students’ experience of the routine and what they learned. Visible Thinking Routines is a conceptual framework that aims to integrate student thinking with content knowledge. If you are interested in learning more about Visible Thinking Routines, you can go to their web site at http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org/VisibleThinking_html_files/VisibleThinking1.html or check out the book, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners by Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. Although it is written for elementary through high school teachers, the routines have applicability in higher education.

One attribute consistently mentioned in the educational literature about great teachers is that they constantly self-reflect and gather data to help them continue to learn and become even better teachers. Incorporating CATs into your teaching can help.

Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers    (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., & Morrison, K. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement,      Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.



Photo by Kate Stone Matheson on Unsplash


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