Classroom Assessment Techniques

What are CATs?

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are simple, non-graded, typically in-class activities intended to provide faculty students useful feedback on the teaching-learning process and/or feedback about students' attainment of learning outcomes.  Faculty often by use clickers to implement CATs, but CATs can also be conducted online via Canvas.

Benefits of Using CATs

  • Faculty and students benefit from CATs in the following ways:
  • Obtain just-in-time feedback about the teaching/learning process.
  • Encourage the view that teaching is an ongoing process of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection.
  • Provide regular feedback about student progress (preempt misconceptions and poor performance on tests, quizzes, projects, etc.)
  • Give insight into day-to-day teaching methods and student learning processes.
  • Provide students with a means of gauging their own learning so they can modify study strategies as appropriate.


Steps to implementing a CAT include:

  • Decide what you want to assess about your students’ learning from a CAT.
  • Choose a CAT that provides this feedback, is consistent with your teaching style, and can be implemented easily in your class.
  • Explain the purpose of the activity to students and then conduct it.
  • After class (typically), review the results, determine what they tell you about your students’ learning, and decide what changes to make, if any.

Examples of CATs

Minute Paper: tests students' knowledge and ability to identify critical concepts. The professor ends class by asking students to write a brief response to the following questions: “What was the most important thing you learned during this class?” The professor reviews the students' submissions, then addresses any misconceptions during the next class period.

Muddiest Point: helps faculty determine if students are having difficulties comprehending or applying course concepts. The technique consists of asking students to provide a response to one question: “What was the muddiest (most confusing) point in the lecture, discussion, homework assignment, etc.?” In the next class period, students and/or faculty discuss solutions to the muddiest point. This can also be used as part of an online discussion via Canvas or as part of an online FAQ.

Defining Features Matrix: Students are asked to categorize closely related concepts according to the presence or absence of important characteristics. Since this technique is used in a matrix format, students’ responses are easy to score and analyze. This could also be a quick clicker activity.

See more examples.

Field-tested Learning Assessment Guide

University of South Carolina

Iowa State University

Vanderbilt University

Carnegie Mellon

University of South Carolina

University of Texas-Austin

Penn State

The gold standard publication on CATs is Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross. This guide includes examples of 50 CATs and is available at the Arthur Lakes Library (LB2822.75 .A54) Contact if you would like your own copy of this resource.


Kay Schneider
CSM Assessment
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Golden, CO 80401-1887

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