No, this is not about the furry companions many of us have or the wildly popular Broadway musical. The CATs I am talking about here are Classroom Assessment Techniques. All of us teach our students how important formative assessment is in developing curriculum for young children. Hopefully most of us use some sort of formative assessment in the college courses we teach. If not, we should.
Nothing is more frustrating than to teach a topic, give an exam, and have the students do poorly on it. Was it the way we taught? Was it that the students could not follow what we were teaching? Were some concepts just harder than we thought? Formative assessment will tell us what the students know BEFORE that big exam and allow us to see if our instructional style is working and/or if we need to cover a topic again to cement the learning.
Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers by Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross is a great book with a wide variety of formative assessment options. Many of your institutions may have the book in the library or access to it via interlibrary loan. It is not particularly expensive (under $40 on Amazon) but if you want to check it out before buying it, that would be the way to go.
The book provides ideas for 50 different CATs. For each there is a description, purpose, level of required time/energy for both faculty and students, suggestions for use, examples, pros, cons, and caveats.
Some of my favorite ideas from the book are:
One Sentence Summary
- Select an important topic that your students have recently studied and that you want them to be able to summarize
- Working as quickly as they can, have your students answer Who Did/Does What to Whom, When, Where, How and Why? in relation to that topic.
- Have the students then turn their answers into a grammatically correct (if long) sentence that follows the WDWWWWHW pattern.
Example: Vygotsky’s theory of zone of proximal development
- Identify an important and clearly applicable principle, theory, generalization, or procedure that your students are studying
- Decide how many applications you will require. One is enough but no more than three
- Pass out small index cards or slips of paper. Remind students to come up with fresh applications, not ones they have heard or read about.
Example: Taking into account the effects of poverty, tell the implications for your teaching practice when working with this population.
RSQC2 Otherwise known as Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect, and Comment
- Recall: At beginning of class ask students to make a list in words or simple phrase of what they recall as the most important, useful, or meaningful points from the previous class
- Summarize: Direct them to summarize as many of the most important points as they can into one summary sentence that captures the essence of the previous class
- Question: Ask them to jot down one or two questions that remained unanswered after the previous class
- Connect: Ask students to explain in 1-2 sentences the connection(s) between the main point(s) of the previous class and the goal(s) of the course
- Comment: Invite the students to write an evaluative comment or two about the class (I enjoyed most/leas….I found _______most/least useful….During most of the class I felt….)
All the above CATs are listed as low to medium time/effort for both faculty and students so they are good ones with which to start.
There are other great formative assessment ideas out there. Do you use any of them? If so, share your ideas here in the comment section. We can all learn from each other.