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Are my students really getting it? CATs will show you the way.

In a previous post (see Gauging Student Understanding: CATs are puuuuur-fect), we introduced instructors to the idea of using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) by Angelo and Cross (1983) to check whether students understand a certain concept. To recap, CATs are generally short, non-graded, and student-centered activities that provide instructors with feedback about lesson effectiveness and student comprehension. Best of all, they require little preparation, class time, or grading. In the following section, we present three additional CATs and suggest ways to adapt them to online courses.

Student-Generated Test Questions

Purpose: Assessing Skill in Application & Performance

Anyone knows that developing “good” test questions is not easy! As an alternative, having students generate test questions has a threefold benefit. An instructor can identify  (1) what students consider to be important content; (2) what they understand to be fair and useful test questions; and (3) what they know when responding to questions. While this sounds like a winning formula, instructors need to consider what role student-generated questions play in the assessment of the material, as well as how students receive feedback.

Technologies that enable collecting student-generated test questions include online surveys (e.g., Google Forms, Bb Test & Survey), individual emails, or collaboratively in wikis (e.g.,. Google Doc).

Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect and Comment (RSQC2)

Purpose: Assessing Learner Reactions to Class Activities, Assignments, & Materials

RSQC2 establishes a protocol that guides students through multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (recall, understanding, and evaluation). It is particularly effective when students need to review previous covered material. Since this protocol is also modular, one can use some or all of the steps at the beginning, middle, or end of a unit.

This activity can take on diverse forms based on learning goals and technologies.

  1. Recall: Students make a list of what they recall as most important from a previous activity, material, or unit.
  2. Summarize: Students summarize the essence of the previous activity, material, or unit.
  3. Question: Students ask one or two questions that remained unanswered.
  4. Connect: Students briefly explain the essential points and how they relate to the goals of the class.
  5. Comment: Students evaluate and share feedback about the previous activity, material, or unit.

Possible online tools include microbloging (e.g., Twitter, TodaysMeet) or chatting (e.g., Adobe Connect). Other options that also allow non-written communication are audio or video forums, video blogs, or even digital stories (e.g., Voicethread, Blackboard VideoEverywhere, Animoto).

Pro & Con Grid

Purpose: Assessing Skill in Analysis & Critical Thinking

Pro & Con Grids provides insights about students’ decision-making process and requires learners to view a certain issue from at least two different perspectives. This popular CAT is particularly useful for questions of value, or when examining advantages and disadvantages of a certain topic. Therefore, prompts need to be carefully considered. (Example: Imagine that you are Hamlet after you encountered your father’s ghost. Make a list of pros and cons of murdering your stepfather, Claudius.)

For an online class, possible tools for Pro & Con Grids could include Bb forums, wikis, Google Docs, or virtual whiteboards, such as Padlet.

If you would like to learn more and see additional online CATs, check out the following resources:

  1. Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993).Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.
  2. Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2004).Collaborative learning techniques: A handbook for college faculty. Wiley.com.
  3. VCU Center for Teaching Excellence. (2009).Formative assessment techniques online.

Are you a CAT-person? Do you have a great example of integrating them into your class? Please share your ideas in the comment section.