CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES


INTRODUCTION
There are two fundamental issues with which the educational reformers are concerned. These are as follows: (i) The students’ learning in the classroom; and (ii) The effectiveness of the teaching by teachers in the classroom. To answer these questions, the movement for Classroom Research and Assessment was initiated during the 1990’s by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross, who devised various Classroom Assessment Techniques (known as CAT’s), (see, for examples, Angelo and Cross (1993), among others, for details). They developed these CAT’s in order to help teachers to measure the effectiveness of their teaching by finding out what students are learning in the classroom and how well they are learning. According to Angelo and Cross (1993), “These CAT’s are designed to encourage college teachers to become more systematic and sensitive observers of learning as it takes place everyday in their classrooms. Faculties have an exceptional opportunity to use their classrooms as laboratories for the study of learning and through such study to develop a better understanding of the learning process and the impact of their teaching upon it.” Thus, in Classroom Assessment Approach, students and teachers are involved in the continuous monitoring of students’ learning. It gives students the feedback of their progress as learners. The faculties, on the other hand, get to know about their effectiveness as teachers. According to Angelo and Cross (1993), the founders of classroom assessment movement, “Classroom Assessments are created, administered, and analyzed by teachers themselves on questions of teaching and learning that are important to them, the likelihood that instructors will apply the results of the assessment to their own teaching is greatly enhanced.” Following Angelo and Cross (1993), some important characteristics of Classroom Assessment Approach are given below:
(i) LEARNER-CENTERED

(ii) TEACHER-DIRECTED

(iii) MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL

(iv) FORMATIVE

(v) CONTEXT-SPECIFIC

(vi) ONGOING

(vii) ROOTED IN GOOD TEACHING PRACTICE
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are generally simple, non-graded, anonymous, in-class activities designed to give you and your students useful feedback on the teaching-learning process as it is happening.
Examples of CATs include the following.
• The Background Knowledge Probe is a short, simple questionnaire given to students at the start of a course, or before the introduction of a new unit, lesson or topic. It is designed to uncover students’ pre-conceptions.
• The Minute Paper tests how students are gaining knowledge, or not. The instructor 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?” and “What important question remains unanswered?”
• The Muddiest Point is one of the simplest CATs to help assess where students are having difficulties. The technique consists of asking students to jot down a quick response to one question: “What was the muddiest point in [the lecture, discussion, homework assignment, film, etc.]?” The term “muddiest” means “most unclear” or “most confusing.”
• The What’s the Principle? CAT is useful in courses requiring problem-solving. After students figure out what type of problem they are dealing with, they often must decide what principle(s) to apply in order to solve the problem. This CAT provides students with a few problems and asks them to state the principle that best applies to each problem.
• Defining Features Matrix: Prepare a handout with a matrix of three columns and several rows. At the top of the first two columns, list two distinct concepts that have potentially confusing similarities (e.g. hurricanes vs. tornados, Picasso vs. Matisse). In the third column, list the important characteristics of both concepts in no particular order. Give your students the handout and have them use the matrix to identify which characteristics belong to each of the two concepts. Collect their responses, and you’ll quickly find out which characteristics are giving your students the most trouble.
Why Should I Use CATs?
CATs can be used to improve the teaching and learning that occurs in a class. More frequent use of CATs can…
• Provide just-in-time feedback about the teaching-learning process
• Provide information about student learning with less work than traditional assignments (tests, papers, etc.)
• Encourage the view that teaching is an ongoing process of inquiry, experimentation, and reflection
• Help students become better monitors of their own learning
• Help students feel less anonymous, even in large courses
• Provide concrete evidence that the instructor cares about learning
How Should I Use CATs?
Results from CATs can guide teachers in fine-tuning their teaching strategies to better meet student needs. A good strategy for using CATs is the following.
1. Decide what you want to assess about your students’ learning from a CAT.
2. Choose a CAT that provides this feedback, is consistent with your teaching style, and can be implemented easily in your class.
3. Explain the purpose of the activity to students, and then conduct it.
4. After class, review the results, determine what they tell you about your students’ learning, and decide what changes to make, if any.
5. Let your students know what you learned from the CAT and how you will use this information.
SUBSTANTIATING THE ABOVE STATEMENT
Using Classroom Assessment Techniques
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are a set of specific activities that instructors can use to quickly gauge students’ comprehension. They are generally used to assess students’ understanding of material in the current course, but with minor modifications they can also be used to gauge students’ knowledge coming into a course or program.
CATs are meant to provide immediate feedback about the entire class’s level of understanding, not individual students’. The instructor can use this feedback to inform instruction, such as speeding up or slowing the pace of a lecture or explicitly addressing areas of confusion.
Asking Appropriate Questions in CATs
Examples of appropriate questions you can ask in the CAT format:
• How familiar are students with important names, events, and places in history that they will need to know as background in order to understand the lectures and readings (e.g. in anthropology, literature, political science)?
• How are students applying knowledge and skills learned in this class to their own lives (e.g. psychology, sociology)?
• To what extent are students aware of the steps they go through in solving problems and how well can they explain their problem-solving steps (e.g. mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering)?
• How and how well are students using a learning approach that is new to them (e.g., cooperative groups) to master the concepts and principles in this course?
Using Specific Types of CATs
Minute Paper
Pose one to two questions in which students identify the most significant things they have learned from a given lecture, discussion, or assignment. Give students one to two minutes to write a response on an index card or paper. Collect their responses and look them over quickly. Their answers can help you to determine if they are successfully identifying what you view as most important.
Muddiest Point
This is similar to the Minute Paper but focuses on areas of confusion. Ask your students, “What was the muddiest point in… (today’s lecture, the reading, the homework)?” Give them one to two minutes to write and collect their responses.
Problem Recognition Tasks
Identify a set of problems that can be solved most effectively by only one of a few methods that you are teaching in the class. Ask students to identify by name which methods best fit which problems without actually solving the problems. This task works best when only one method can be used for each problem.
Documented Problem Solutions
Choose one to three problems and ask students to write down all of the steps they would take in solving them with an explanation of each step. Consider using this method as an assessment of problem-solving skills at the beginning of the course or as a regular part of the assigned homework.
Directed Paraphrasing
Select an important theory, concept, or argument that students have studied in some depth and identify a real audience to whom your students should be able to explain this material in their own words (e.g., a grants review board, a city council member, a vice president making a related decision). Provide guidelines about the length and purpose of the paraphrased explanation.
Applications Cards
Identify a concept or principle your students are studying and ask students to come up with one to three applications of the principle from everyday experience, current news events, or their knowledge of particular organizations or systems discussed in the course.
Student-Generated Test Questions
A week or two prior to an exam, begin to write general guidelines about the kinds of questions you plan to ask on the exam. Share those guidelines with your students and ask them to write and answer one to two questions like those they expect to see on the exam.
Classroom Opinion Polls
When you believe that your students may have pre-existing opinions about course-related issues, construct a very short two- to four-item questionnaire to help uncover students’ opinions.

Creating and Implementing CATs
You can create your own CATs to meet the specific needs of your course and students. Below are some strategies that you can use to do this.
• Identify a specific “assessable” question where the students’ responses will influence your teaching and provide feedback to aid their learning.
• Complete the assessment task yourself (or ask a colleague to do it) to be sure that it is doable in the time you will allot for it.
• Plan how you will analyze students’ responses, such as grouping them into the categories “good understanding,” “some misunderstanding,” or “significant misunderstanding.”
• After using a CAT, communicate the results to the students so that they know you learned from the assessment and so that they can identify specific difficulties of their own.

CONCLUSION
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are a set of specific activities that instructors can use to quickly gauge students’ comprehension. They are generally used to assess students’ understanding of material in the current course, but with minor modifications they can also be used to gauge students’ knowledge coming into a course or program.
CATs are meant to provide immediate feedback about the entire class’s level of understanding, not individual students’. The instructor can use this feedback to inform instruction, such as speeding up or slowing the pace of a lecture or explicitly addressing areas of confusion.

REFERENCES

Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. (1993), Classroom Assessment Techniques – A Handbook for College Teachers, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
Ausubel, D. P. (1968), Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View, Holt, Reinhart & Winston, Troy, Mo.
Bloom, B. S., Hastings, J. T., and Madaus, G. F. (1971), Handbook on Formative and Summative Evaluation of Student Learning, McGraw-Hill, New York.
Bloom, B. S., and others (1956), Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Vol. 1: Cognitive Domain, McKay, New York.
Brown, A. L., Bransford, J. D., Ferrara, R. A., and Campione, J. C. (1983), Learning, Remembering, and Understanding, in F. H. Flavell and E. M. Markman (eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology, Vol. 3: Cognitive Development, (4th ed.), Wiley, New
York.
Crooks, T. J. (1988), The Impact of Classroom Evaluation Practices on Students, Review of Educational Research, 58(4), 438-481.
Davis, B. G. (1999), Quizzes, Tests, and Exams, http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/quizzes.htm.
Flinders University of South Australia (2000), Education and Research Policy, http://www.flinders.edu.au/teach/teach/home.html.

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