Using student activities to assess learning in your classroom
Teaching Scenarios CATS can help with
Classroom Assessment Techniques or CATs can provide deceptively simple but highly effective solutions to many common teaching scenarios instructors face in the classroom. These scenarios might not involve a ‘problem’ or a ‘challenge’ per se but rather focus on a very specific outcome you want to achieve when the need arises during the semester.
Typical teaching scenario outcomes that CATs can help you achieve include:
- Starting a discussion on a controversial topic
- Checking to see if students ‘get it’
- Breaking up lecture to get students active for a few minutes
- Engaging students in large lecture class
- Challenging students to process course content at an intellectually deeper level
- Encouraging students to apply what they have learned
- Providing more structure to student group work
- Having a range of activities to hand that can be easily adapted for different scenarios as they arise in the classroom
Note that CATs are not related to grading students or assigning them work, rather they are focused on providing a framework for assessing or promoting student learning. To help you use CATs to achieve this range of outcomes, it is useful to understand what they are and why specifically they are effective in the classroom. This will allow you to decide when best to use CATs in your teaching and how to adapt different CATs for your specific needs.
What are CATs and how can they help?
Classroom Assessment Techniques are activities “designed to help teachers find out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning it” (Angelo & Cross, 4). Classroom Assessment Techniques are mini-activities geared towards student engagement, which provide ungraded data on student comprehension of content for the mutual benefit of instructor and student. CATs happen during class-time and are not discipline-specific or lengthy. Rather, they are teaching techniques that can be deployed for many types of content and purposes.