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Notes from the CFT Library: Classroom Assessment Techniques

This article was originally published in the Fall 1998 issue of the CFT’s newsletter, The Teaching Forum.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers , by Thomas A. Angelo and Patricia Cross. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1993; 427 pp.

By Dave Jensen, Master Teaching Fellow

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are in-class or out-of-class exercises which allow college teachers to receive feedback from their students on how much and how well the students are learning. Although learning is the goal of college classrooms, teachers can often lose sight of this goal in our focus on our teaching. As the authors explain, “Learning can and often does take place without the benefit of teaching…but there is no such thing as effective teaching in the absence of learning. Teaching without learning is just talking.”

This book is extremely userfriendly, offering readers a variety of specific exercises. For instance, if you want to know if your students are able to analyze and synthesize a particular set of material, you might have them construct a Concept Map, placing the core idea in a circle at the center of the map and drawing connecting lines to other ideas which relate to the main point. The text also presents CATs like the Muddiest Point, which simply asks students to write down the “muddiest” or most confusing point from a class. In addition, the text provides a Teaching Goals Inventory, an assessment which allows teachers to identify and define their goals for specific classes they are teaching. Each CAT presented in the text has estimated levels of time and energy required of the teacher and the students, and CATs are catalogued by discipline as well as by the function they serve.