Classroom Assessment Techniques: Quick Strategies to Check Student Learning in Class

Classroom assessment techniques (CAT) are relatively quick and easy formative evaluation methods that help you check student understanding in “real time”. These formative evaluations provide information that can be used to modify/improve course content, adjust teaching methods, and, ultimately improve student learning. Formative evaluations are most effective when they are done frequently and the information is used to effect immediate adjustments in the day-to-day operations of the course.

When CATs are used frequently, they can have the following impacts for faculty:

  • provide day-to-day feedback that can be applied immediately;
  • provide useful information about what students have learned without the amount of time required for preparing tests, reading papers, etc.;
  • allow you to address student misconceptions or lack of understanding in a timely way;
  • help to foster good working relationships with students and encourage them to understand that teaching and learning are on-going processes that require full participation.

For students, CATs can:

  • help develop self-assessment and learning management skills;
  • reduce feelings of isolation, especially in large classes;
  • increase understanding and ability to think critically about the course content;
  • foster an attitude that values understanding and long-term retention;
  • show your interest and support of  their success in your classroom.

CATs fall into three broad categories based on what they are used to evaluate.

Course-related knowledge and skills

Includes: prior knowledge, recall and understanding; analysis and critical thinking skills; synthesis and creative thinking skills; problem solving skills; and application and performance skills

Student attitudes, values, and self-awareness

Includes: students’ awareness of their own values and attitudes; students’ awareness of their own learning processes; and course-related learning and study skills awareness

Reactions to instruction methods

Includes: student and peer reactions to teachers and teaching, class activities, assignments, and materials

Following is a chart that indicates what the CAT is intended to evaluate, its name, how each is conducted, what to do with the information you collect, and an estimate of how much time is required to complete it.

Kind of Evaluation Name How It’s Done How to Use Time Needs

Course Knowledge and Skills

One-Minute Paper*

During last few minutes of class period, ask students to use a half-sheet of paper and write “Most important thing I learned today and what I understood least.”

Review before next class meeting and use to clarify, correct, or elaborate.


Muddiest Point*

Similar to One-Minute Paper but only ask students to describe what they didn’t understand and what they think might help.

Same as One-Minute Paper. If many had the same problem, try another approach.


Chain Notes*

Pass around a large envelope with a question about the class content. Each student writes a short answer, puts it in the envelope, and passes it on.

Sort answers by type of answer. At next class meeting, use to discuss ways of understanding.


Application Article

During last 15 minutes of class, ask students to write a short news article about how a major point applies to a real-world situation. An alternative is to have students write a short article about how the point applies to their maClassroom Assessment Techniques: Quick Strategies to Check Student Learning in Class


Sort articles and pick several to read at next class, illustrating range of applications, depth of understanding, and creativity.


Student-generated test questions*

Divide the class into groups and assign each group a topic on which they are each to write a question and answer for the next test. Each student should be assured of getting at least one question right on the test.

Use as many of the questions as possible, combining those that are


Attitudes, Values, and Self-Awareness


Ask students to keep journals that detail their thoughts about the class. May ask them to be specific, recording only attitudes, values, or self-awareness.

Have students turn in the journals several times during the semester so you can chart changes and development.


Reactions to Instruction Methods

Exam Evaluations*

Select a test that you use regularly and add a few questions at the end which ask students to evaluate how well the test measures their knowledge or skills.rnals

Make changes to the test that are reasonable. Track student responses over time.rnals


Student Rep Group

Ask students to volunteer to meet as a small group with you on a regular basis to discuss how the course is progressing, what they are learning, and suggestions for improving the course.

Some issues will be for your information, some to be addressed in class.


Suggestion Box

Put a box near the classroom door and ask students to leave notes about any class issue.

Review and respond at the next class session.

Low to Medium

Peer Review

Work with a willing colleague, pick a representative class session to be observed, and ask the colleague to take notes about his/her impression of the class, your interactions with students, and your teaching methods.

Decide method with the colleague. Discussion is best, but a written report may be more useful in the long term.


*Some material in this report is adapted from:
Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993) Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, Second Edition, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Article adapted from original content by Lee Haugen, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University.