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July 2013

You listen to the audience. The audience is wrong individually and always right collectively. If they don't laugh, it isn't funny. If they cough, it isn't interesting. If they walk out, you are in trouble.
- Peter Stone, scriptwriter


Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) were created to encourage instructors to systematically and directly observe and assess learning within the classroom. Use of these techniques provides timely and specific feedback on the status of students’ learning and understanding. Students are able to self-assess their understanding, and instructors are able to self-assess their teaching effectiveness (Angelo & Cross, 1993).

CATs create a living laboratory approach to teaching and learning where different instructional approaches can be tried, evaluated, and adjusted. The feedback mechanisms allow instructors to make some determination of the effectiveness of the approaches and to refocus teaching efforts to make learning more effective and efficient. Perhaps most importantly, feedback happens rapidly enough for continuous refinement of approaches through consistent monitoring of student understanding and teaching effectiveness.

CATs were initially developed for face-to-face courses. However, there may be an increased need for these techniques in the online classroom. The online environment lacks many of the cues that instructors routinely use to check for understanding in the face-to-face classroom. Use of regular feedback mechanisms can allow input that can help instructors proactively react to teaching and learning issues. Data from these techniques serve as one replacement for the cues absent in the online environment.


  1. Communicate what you are doing to the students.
  2. Clearly describe that you are interested in improving understanding and improving teaching.
  3. Ask students to be honest and constructive in their response.
  4. After analysis, pick one or two elements to report back to the class.
  5. Let the class know what you gained from the feedback and what steps will be taken to improve learning and understanding.

Sample Classroom Assessment Techniques

One-Minute Paper, Muddiest Point

For the One-Minute Paper, consider having students respond to you to let you know the most important thing learned in the class and the one thing that was the most difficult to understand. The Muddiest Point assessment is related to this technique, but asks students to discuss what they did not understand in the class. Several options are available in Blackboard for this technique.

Discussion Board

Consider creating a thread for each class session that asks for the information for either the Muddiest Point or the One-Minute paper.


Consider having students email you after each class or certain classes. You should define the questions for Muddiest Point or the One-Minute Paper so students understand exactly what you are wanting.

page last updated 8/27/2015 1:02 PM