Skip Navigation

Classroom Assessment Techniques

Skip Side Navigation

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT's)

Adapted from Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


The following classroom assessment techniques have been taken from the book Classroom Assessment Techniques by T. A. Angelo and K. P. Cross and have been converted into this Online Resource Guide for the faculty here at OU.   The best way to use this resource is to begin by determining what you intend to assess.  This section reflects three broad categories each with more specific assessments designed for various purposes.

Techniques for Assessing Course-Related Knowledge and Skill

  • BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE PROBE - can use on the first day of class, or before introducing a new topic. Prepare 2/3 open-ended, 5/6 short answer, or 10/20 multiple-choice questions that probe the students' existing knowledge. At next class meeting, let the students know the results and how this will affect them as learners.

  • FOCUSED LISTING - use as a brainstorming technique to generate definitions/ descriptions of topics. Ask students to take 3-5 minutes and list words or phrases that describe concept *can be used to generate class discussion or then have students form groups to compare lists and form the best overall description of topic.

  • MISCONCEPTION/PRECONCEPTION CHECK - particularly useful in classes with controversial/sensitive issues. Select a handful of troublesome beliefs that are common and most likely to interfere with students' learning, and create a simple questionnaire. Explain to your students the purpose and when they should expect to receive feedback.

  • EMPTY OUTLINES - instructor provides students with an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class lecture or assigned homework reading and gives them limited amount of time to fill in the blank spaces.

  • MEMORY MATRIX - instructor hands out a two-dimensional diagram, rectangle divided into rows and columns used to organize info and illustrate relationships-row and column headings are given but the cells are left empty for students to fill in information. Can turn in for an individual grade or have students work in groups.

  •  ONE MINUTE PAPERS - in the last 10 minutes of class, ask the following questions, "the most imp thing that you have learned today?," "1-2 imp questions that have regarding the lecture?," "what subject would you like to know more about?" (can also ask questions regarding the lecture or chapter) Have students write down answers, collect-can be used to start the next class lecture, etc.

  •  MUDDIEST POINT - 5-10 minutes before the end of class, ask students' "What was the muddiest point in…?" Could be in reference to a discussion, homework assignment, movie, play, etc. Allow verbal responses that are addressed immediately, and/or collect written responses from which you choose 1 to start the next class.
  • CATEGORIZING GRID - students are presented with a grid containing 2-3 important categories from what they have been studying, along with a scrambled list of terms/images/equations, etc. that belong in one or more categories. Give students limited time to complete (individual or group), can use as brainstorming technique or for grade.

  • DEFINING FEATURES MATRIX - requires students to categorize information/concepts according to the presence (+) or absence (-) of important defining features, helps them identify and make explicit distinctions between concepts.

  • PRO AND CON GRID - quick analysis of by class of the pros/cons, costs/benefits, advantages/disadvantages of a concept/issue. Forces students to go beyond their first reaction and search for two sides to an issue. Can be used in class or as homework, individual or group.

  • CONTENT, FORM, AND FUNCTION OUTLINES - student analyzes the "what" (content), "how" (form), and "why"(function) of a particular message. Could be journal article, poem, critical essay, advertisement, etc. Students writes brief notes in the form of an outline that can be read quickly.

  • ANALYTIC MEMO - students to write a 1-2 page analysis of a specific problem or issue, generally for a specific audience (employer, client, etc.) that needs the students' analysis to inform decision-making.
  • ONE SENTENCE SUMMARIES - have students answer these questions on a specific topic, and then synthesize answer into one long, informative, and grammatical sentence: Who/What, When, Where, Why, How?

  • WORD JOURNAL - requires a 2-part response. First, student will summarize a short text read in a single word, next the student writes a paragraph or two explaining why they chose that particular word to summarize the text.

  • APPROXIMATE ANALOGIES - have students complete the 2nd half of an analogy-A is to B as X is to Y, etc., to which the instructor has prepared the first half.

  • CONCEPT MAPS - have students draw/diagram a map connecting the major topic of focus with what they consider its most important features/other ideas and concepts that they have learned/etc.-can use for class discussion or group work.

  • INVENTED DIALOGUES - students can either select and weave together actual quotes from primary resources, or have them "invent" reasonable quotes that fit the character and context of the speakers.

  • ANNOTATED PORTFOLIOS - have students put together a limited number of examples of their work (creative writing, research papers, art, poems, etc.), along with a commentary as to why each example is significant.
  • PROBLEM RECOGNITION TASKS - present students with a few examples of common problem types. The student is asked to recognize and identify the particular type of problem each example represents. Can be used in quantitative and technical fields, but also for broader problem-solving applications such as in law, counseling, policy analysis, etc.

  • WHAT'S THE PRINCIPLE - after deciding what type of problem they are dealing with, students must then be able to decipher which techniques or principles should be applied in order to solve it. Provide students with a few example problems and have them state the principle that best applies.

  • DOCUMENTED PROBLEM SOLUTIONS - have students keep track of and document the steps/methods they take in solving a problem. In doing this, both students and teachers can gain and analyze information on their problem-solving skills.

  • AUDIO AND VIDEOTAPED PROTOCOLS - record students talking and working through the process of solving a problem, how do they explain it to themselves and someone else?
  • DIRECTED PARAPHRASING - students are directed to paraphrase part of a lesson for a specific audience and purpose, using their own words. Can be used as a refresher technique or as a graded assignment.

  • APPLICATION CARDS - after students have heard/read about an imp principle, generalization, theory, or procedure, the instructor hands out an index card and asks them to write down at least one possible, real-world application for what they have just learned.

  •  STUDENT-GENERATED TEST QUESTIONS - focus on an exam that is 2-3 weeks away, have students generate 3 or 4 test questions and answers. Decide before you assign the questions what type of format, and perhaps certain subjects that you would like to cover.

  •  HUMAN TABLEAU OR CLASS MODELING - have groups of students create "living" scenes or model processes to show what they know (ex) students pose as figures in a painting, reenact a Druid ritual, model operation of a fuel system in a car engine, model how the human visual system works.

  •  PAPER OR PROJECT PROSPECTUS - brief, structured first-draft plan for a term paper or project, can include topic, purpose, intended audience, major questions to be answered, basic organization, and the time and resources required, etc.

Techniques for Assessing Learner Attitudes, Values, and Self-Awareness

  • CLASSROOM OPINION POLLS - instructor reviews lesson plan and gathers up questions or interesting points that the students would express opinion about on that certain subject. Formulate a Poll of a few questions and then tally up the results to discuss how the students react.

  • DOUBLE-ENTRY JOURNALS - students read an assigned text and record in their first journal entry the main ideas, arguments and/or most controversial points. In their second entry the students express the values of the passage and explain the personal significance (i.e. interests, concerns, and values).

  • PROFILES OF ADMIRABLE INDIVIDUALS - have students write a brief, focused profile of an individual in a field related to course material whom they greatly admire their values, skills, or actions.

  • EVERYDAY ETHICAL DILEMMAS - instructor decides on a controversial issue and creates a dilemma that includes two or three questions that students must take position on. Students write up anonymous/individual responses (at home or in class) and finally discuss the issue (with the entire class or in small groups).

  • COURSE-RELATED SELF-CONFIDENCE SURVEYS - instructor coordinates a few simple questions into a survey to help get a measure of the students' self-confidence in a specific skill or ability that is new, unfamiliar, or familiar but failed to learn previously.
  • FOCUSED AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES - instructor gears students to write a one to two page self portrait on a single successful learning experience, in which a student can write a well-focused analysis on that point in their life. This activity is the most effective at the beginning of the semester.

  • INTEREST/KNOWLEDGE/SKILLS CHECKLISTS - brief teacher-made list that includes all the topics that will be taught in that course on one half and the level of skills or interests on the other, which is given to the students share their insight. This gives the instructor (who has a flexible syllabi) a way of approaching the topics and the approximate amount of time need for each.

  • GOAL RANKING AND MATCHING - use on the 1st or 2nd day of class, have students list a few learning goals that they hope to achieve through the course, and rank them in order of importance. Instructor should collect to get an idea of how they compare to the instructor's own goals.

  • SELF-ASSESSMENT OF WAYS OF LEARNING - instructor focuses on learning style(s) in which he/she would like to stress upon the students. Instructor creates a profile for the different types of learners followed by a couple questions. This way students and the instructor can get an idea of how they learn, along with the techniques the instructor should use to help address those learners.
  • PRODUCTIVE STUDY-TIME LOGS - instructor makes up a simple log in sheet for the students to record the amount of time spent studying, when they study, and how productive they were while studying. Then the students turn the Study-Time Logs in at a specific date and time that the instructor chooses.

  •  PUNCTUATED LECTURES - this technique requires instructors and students to follow a simple five step procedure: listen (to the lecture), stop (the lecture), reflect (your behavior and understanding of content), write (insights to course material), and give feedback (on how it was taught and if there were any distractions).

  •  PROCESS ANALYSIS - students record the steps they take to carry out a representative assignment and comment on the conclusion of their approaches. Beneficial for physical procedures such as music, dance, physical education, etc.

  •  DIAGNOSTIC LOGS - students write up focused versions of the academic journals. It includes an analysis/summarization of what the student learned in that course. The student then reviews what was written and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses and the different possibilities for solving them.

Techniques for Assessing Learner Reactions to Instruction

  • CHAIN NOTES - instructor composes a question that captures how involved the students are in the lecture. The question should be able to be answered quick, honest and anonymous that is put into a folder that is passed around the lecture. Gives the professor opportunity to find out how engaged the students are in the course and the lecture. (Example question: What are they focusing their attention on or how well?)

  • ELECTRONIC MAIL FEEDBACK - instructor poses a question via e-mail to get feedback about his/her teaching and the students can respond through a personal yet anonymous e-mail.

  • TEACHER-DESIGNED FEEDBACK FORMS - instructors should give out feedback forms randomly throughout the semester. The instructor makes a feedback form consisting of three to five questions about their teaching. The questions are based solely on teaching goals in that course. Coordinate a carefully worded and focused response sheet to get anonymous feedback about the class.

  • GROUP INSTRUCTIONAL FEEDBACK TECHNIQUE (GIFT) - someone other than the instructor organizes three questions to evaluate the course and gives it out for the students to answer.  What works?  What doesn't?
    What can be done to improve it?  This person then reviews the responses and figures out the most frequent answers, summarizes them, and reports it to the instructor.

  • CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT QUALITY CIRCLES - groups of students organize a structured assessment of course materials, activities, and assignments. The various groups meet with the instructor to give feedback on the quality of the course.
  • RSQC2 (recall, summarize, question, connect, and comment) - 5-step protocol is used to guide students to recall, summarize, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize exercises focusing on a previous class section.

  • GROUP-WORK EVALUATIONS - simple questionnaires used to collect feedback on students' reactions to cooperative learning (where students work together in structured groups toward an assigned learning goal) and study groups-have them evaluate what is and is not going well.

  • READING RATING SHEETS - short simple assessment forms that students fill out in response to their assigned course readings-how interesting, motivating, clear, and useful readings are from students' point of view.

  • ASSIGNMENT ASSESSMENTS - focus students' attention on how they carry out their course assignments, and ask them to consider and document the value of these assignments to them as learners.

  • EXAM EVALUATIONS - allows faculty to examine both what students' think that they are learning from exams, and their evaluations of the fairness, appropriateness, usefulness, and quality of the tests. Can be done anonymously or in groups.