Classroom Assessment Techniques

In Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed. 1993), T. A. Angelo and K. P. Cross provided many Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) for college teachers from various disciplines. The following summary, based on their book, presents Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge and Skills. These CATs are intended more as basic feedback tools for monitoring how well students are learning the course content so as to make timely instructional adjustments, than as basis for grades (summative evaluation). Instructors may adapt these models to fit their particular instructional purpose. 

Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding

Assessing Skill in Analysis and Critical Thinking

Assessing Skill in Synthesis and Creative Thinking

Assessing Skill in Problem Solving

Assessing Skill in Application and Performance

Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding:

  • Assessing students' level/range of preparation:
    • Background Knowledge Probe (assessing students' prior learning by asking them to write short answers or circle correct responses on a questionnaire at the start of a new lesson).
    • Misconception/Preconception Check (uncovering students' prior incorrect or incomplete knowledge or beliefs that may constitute barriers to new learning)  
  • Assessing how well students are accumulating and organizing new course content:
    • Focused Listing (asking students to list the most important points related to a particular term/concept/topic, e.g., list words/phrases that best describe/define "work" in physics)
    • Empty Outlines (asking students to recall the organization of the most important points of an in-class presentation by completing an empty or partially completed outline provided by the instructor)
    • Memory Matrix (asking students to recall important course content, esp. facts and principles, and organize it into categories in a two-dimensional diagram provided by the instructor; examples)
  • Assessing students' understanding of new course content:
    • Minute Paper (asking students to write what is the most important thing they learned during a class and what important questions remain unanswered; also called Half-Sheet Response)
    • Muddiest Point (asking students about what they are most confused about a lesson/topic)                                       Back to the Top

Assessing Skill in Analysis and Critical Thinking: 

  • Categorizing Grid (asking students to sort sub-ordinate information into super-ordinate conceptual categories; examples)
  • Defining Features Matrix (asking students to identify differentiating features by comparing two or more items/concepts; examples)
  • Pro and Con Grid (asking student to identify the advantages and disadvantages of a given idea so as to weigh the value of competing claims) 
  • Content, Form, and Function Outlines (asking students to analyze a message/a form of communication, e. g., a TV commercial, and answer the "what (content), how (form), and why (function/purpose)" questions in an outline format; also called What, How, and Why Outlines) 
  • Analytic Memos (asking students to evaluate information and write a concise analysis of a specific problem so as to inform decision making/policy formulation by a hypothetical stakeholder, e. g., employer; examples)       

Assessing Skill in Synthesis and Creative Thinking:

  • One-Sentence Summary (asking students to summarize a large amount of information concisely and completely in a single long, grammatical sentence)
  • Word Journal (asking students to summarize the central concept/problem in a short text in a single word and briefly explain why he/she chose that particular word)
  • Approximate Analogies (asking students to complete the second half of an analogy for which their instructor has supplied the first half, so as to assess students' grasp of the relationship between two concepts; example: voltage is to wattage as ____is to ____)
  • Concept Maps (asking students to illustrate, in drawings or diagrams, the connections between a focal concept and other concepts they have learned; examples)
  • Invented Dialogues (asking students to invent an illustrative conversation by either selecting and weaving together actual quotes from primary sources, or inventing reasonable quotes that fit the character of the speakers and the context; the purpose is to assess students' ability to capture the essence of issues, personalities, or historical periods; examples)
  • Annotated Portfolios (asking students to submit a folder containing samples of their creative work, along with their brief explanation of the relationship between their work and the course goals/content)                  Back to the Top

Assessing Skill in Problem Solving:

  • Problem Recognition Tasks (asking students to recognize exactly what type of problem they are dealing with, so as to choose the appropriate solution method; examples)
  • What's the Principle? (asking students to determine the relevant principles to apply to solve a specific problem; this technique is especially useful in courses where students learn rules or principles of practice)
  • Documented Problem Solutions (asking students to make explicit/document each step they took in solving a problem; this technique is especially useful in highly quantitative courses)
  • Audio- and Videotaped Protocols (asking students to demonstrate a problem solving protocol in real time and to capture their narrated solutions for later assessment)           

Assessing Skill in Application and Performance:

  • Directed Paraphrasing (asking students to translate, in their own words, something they have learned into language and concepts that a particular audience will understand; examples)
  • Applications Cards (asking students to come up with their own examples of real-world application of the principle/theory/procedure they have just learned)
  • Student-Generated Test Questions (asking students to generate possible questions and model answers for an upcoming test, to see what they evaluate as the most important content and how well they grasp that content)
  • Human Tableau or Class Modeling (engaging students, usually as groups, in physically acting out their applications of knowledge; examples)
  • Paper or Project Prospectus (asking students to write a brief, structured first-draft plan for a term paper/project, including such elements as topic and major questions to be answered; instructors can use this technique to assess students' ability in synthesizing what they have already learned about a topic as they plan their own project, and to give students prompt feedback; examples)

(Compiled by Office of Institutional Analysis, November 2008; all the CATs examples are taken from Angelo and Cross' book [with permission from the authors].)