Classroom Assessment Techniques


Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are a form of ungraded formative evaluation used by faculty to monitor student learning before and between summative exams or assignments and to then direct instructional strategies to better meet student needs. 

They include simple tools and flexible procedures to evaluate student's: 

  • prior knowledge, recall, and understanding of concepts 
  • critical and creative thinking skills 
  • application, performance, and problem-solving skills 
  • capacity for self-reflection and self-regulation as learners 
  • reactions to faculty instruction and related classroom practice 
  • response to class activities, assignments, and materials


  • An instructor might adapt a background knowledge probe to understand what students' already know or remember about course subject matter. 
  • An instructor might use Documented Problem Solutions to evaluate to what extent students are aware of the cognitive steps they go through in solving a complex problem. 
  • An instructor might use a One Sentence Summary to determine how well students distinguish the key point of a learning activity or lecture.
  • Another instructor might use a TtR2 to enable students retention of important concepts  

Using Classroom Assessment Techniques

Prospects for successful use of CATs to improve student learning increase when faculty: 

  • write assemble student learning objectives for course units and activities 
  • clearly explain the purpose and process for using a CAT(s) with their students 
  • select (adapt) a CAT that best facilities measurement of a specific learning objective(s) and meets the instructors' concerns for time allocated to preparation, use, and review 
  • determine how they will analyze information collected using a CAT 
  • use results to provide students with feedback that is timely, explicit, and appropriately integrated into the class. Close the loop so that they understand what you have learned from their responses and how your suggestions or revisions can help them address gaps in learning 
  • do not grade student responses to a CAT

Sources of Information


Angelo and Cross (1993) have written an excellent overview of the theory, selection, and use of CATs in, “Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers”. Fifty techniques are presented that can be adapted for specific teaching contexts.



Additional information can be found in Suskie (2009), “Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide”. This text describes a wide variety of topics related to the assessment process, as well as the use of results to inform and improve teaching, learning, planning, and decision making


Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching Indiana University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Journal Articles:

Angelo, T. A. (1990). Classroom assessment: Improving learning quality where it matters most. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 42: 71–82.

Divoll, K.A., Browning, S.T., and W.M. Vesey. (2012). The ticket to retention: A classroom assessment technique to improve student learning. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 12 (2), 45-64

Esenbach, R., Golich, V., and Curry, R. 1998. Classroom assessment across the disciplines. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 75: 59-66.

Goldstein, G.S. 2007. Using classroom assessment techniques in an introductory statistics class. College Teaching, 55, 77-82.

Steadman, M. 1998. Using classroom assessment to change both teaching and learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 75: 23-35.

Simpson-Beck, G. 2011. Assessing classroom assessment techniques. Active Learning in Higher Education, 12(2), 125-132