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Studium Biologie For lecturers


Student's benefit:
Results from CATs can guide teachers in fine-tuning their teaching strategies to better meet student needs.

Teaching enrichment:
CATs can be used to improve the teaching and learning


  • prior knowledge, recall, and understanding.
  • skill in analysis and critical thinking.
  • skill in synthesis and creative thinking.
  • skill in problem solving.
  • skill in application and performance.
  • student's awareness of their attitudes and values.
  • students' self-awareness as learners.
  • course-related learning and study skills, strategies, and behaviors.
  • learner reactions to teachers and teaching.
  • learner reactions to class activities, assignments, and materials.

E.g. OLAT survey..(more tools will be listet soon)

What are CATs?

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.

Example of CATs include the following.

  • The Background Knowledge Probe is a short 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 follogien 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.
  • Defining Features Matrix: Prepare a handout with a matrix of three columns and several rows. At the top of the firs two columns, list two distinct concepts that have potentially confusing similarities. 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 will 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, deteremine what they tell you about your students' learning, and decide what changes to make.
  5. Let your students know what you learned from the CAT and how you will use this information.

Where can I find more CATs?

The standard references on CATs is Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd edition, by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross (Jossey-Bass, 1993). This book includes 50 CATs, indexed in a variety of useful ways.

Overview of the 50 CATs by Angelo and Cross:

I. Assessing Prior Knowledge, Recall, and Understanding
The CATS in this group focus on analysis - the breaking down of information, questions, or problems to facilitate understanding and problem solving.

  • #01 Background Knowledge Probe: short, simple questionnaires prepared by instructors for use at the beginning of a course or at the start of new units or topics; can serve as a pretest; typically elicits more detailed information than CAT2.
  • #02 Focused Listing: focuses students' attention on a single important term, name, or concept from a lesson or class session and directs students to list ideas related to the "focus".
  • #03 Misconception/Preconception Check: focus is on uncovering prior knowledge or beliefs that hinder or block new learning; can be designed to uncover incorrect or incomplete knowledge, attitudes, or values
  • #04 Empty outlines: in a limited amount of time students complete an empty or partially completed outline of an in-class presentation or homework assignment
  • #05 Memory Matrix: students complete a table about course content in which row and column headings are complete but cells are empty
  • #06 Minute Paper: perhaps the most frequently used CAT; students answer 2 questions (What was the most important thing you learned during this class? And what important question remains unanswered?
  • #07 Muddiest Point: considered by many as the simplest CAT; students respond to 1 question (What was the muddiest point in ____?); well suited to large, lower divistion courses but not to those which emphasize integration, synthesis and evaluation

II. Assessing Skill in analysis and Critical Thinking
The CATs in this group focus on analysis - the breaking down of information, questions, or problems to facilitate understanding and problem solving.

  • #08 Categorizing Grid: students complete a grid containing 2 or 3 overarching concepts and a variety of related subordinate elements associated with the larger concepts.
  • #09 Defining Features Matrix: students categorize concepts according to presence or absence of important defining features.
  • #10 Pro and Con Grid: students list pros/cons, costs/benefits, advantages/disadvantages of an issue, question or value of competing claims.
  • #11 Content, Form, and Function Outlines: in an outline form, students analyze the"what" (content), "how" (form), and "why" (function) of a particular message (e.g. poem, newspaper story, billboard, critical essay); also called "What, How and Why Outlines".
  • #12 Analytic Memos: students write a one- or two-page analysis of a specific problem or issue to help inform a decision-maker.

III. Assessing Skill in Synthesis and Creative Thinking
The CATS in this group focus on synthesis - each stimulate the student to create, and allow the faculty to assess, original intellectual products that result from a synthesis of course content and the students "intelligence, judgment, knowledge, and skills".

  • #13 One-Sentence Summary: students answer questions "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" about a given topic and then creates a single informative, grammatical, and long summary sentence.
  • #14 Word Journal: involves a 2 part response; 1st the student summarize a short text in a single word and 2nd the student writes 1-2 paragraphs explaining the word choice.
  • #15 Approximate Analogies: students simply complete the 2nd half of an analogy - a is to b as x is to y; described as approximate because rigor of formal logic is not required.
  • #16 Concept Maps: students draw or diagram the mental connections they make between a major concept and other concepts they have learned.
  • #17 Invented Dialogues: students synthesize their knowledge of issues, personalities, and historical periods into the form of a carefully structured illustrative conversation; 2 levels of invention (select and weave quotes from primary sources or invent reasonable quotes that fit characters and context)
  • #18 Annotated Portfolios: students assemble a very limited number of examples of creative work and supplement with own commentary on significance of examples.

IV. Assessing Skill in Problem Solving
The CATS in this group focus on problem solving skills of various kinds - recognition of types of problems, determining principles and techniques to solve, perceiving similarities of problem features and ability to reflect and then alter solution strategies.

  1. #19 Problem Recognition Tasks: students recognize and identify particular problem types
  2. #20 What's the Principle?: students identify principle or principles to solve problems of various types.
  3. #21 Documented Problem Solutions: students track in a written format the steps they take to solve problems as if for a "show and tell"
  4. #22 Audio- and Videotaped Protocols: students work through a problem solving process and it is captured to allow instructors to assess metacognition (learner's awareness of and control of thinking)

V. Assessing Skill in Application and Performance
The CATS in this group focus on students' abilities to apply important - sometimes referenced as conditional knowledge - knowing when and where to apply what know and can do.

  1. #23 Directed Paraphrasing: students paraphrase part of a lesson for a specific audience demonstrating ability to translate highly specialized information into language the clients or customers can understand.
  2. #24 Application Cards: students generate examples of real-work applications for important principles, generalizations, theories or procedures.
  3. #25 Student-Generated Test Questions: students generate test questions and model answers for critical areas of learning
  4. #26 Human Tableau or Class Modeling: Students transform and apply their learning into doing by physically modeling a process or representing an image.
  5. #27 Paper or Project Prospectus: Students create a brief plan for a paper or project based on your guiding questions.

VI. Assessing Student's Awareness of their Attitudes and Values
The CATS in this group are designed to assist teachers in developing students' attitudes, opinions, values, and self-awareness within the course curriculum.

  1. #28 Classroom Opinion Polls: students indicate degree of agreement or disagreement with a statement or prompt.
  2. #29 Double-entry Journals: Students record and respond to significant passages of text
  3. #30 Profiles of Admiral Individuals: Students write a brief description of the characteristics of a person they admire in a field related to the course.
  4. #31 Everyday Ethical Dilemma: Students respond to a case study that poses a discipline-related ethical dilemma.
  5. #32 Course-related Self-Confidence Surveys: Students complete an anonymous survey indicating their level of confidence in mastering the course material.

VII. Assessing Students' Self-Awareness as Learners
The CATS in this group are recommended to help students express personal goals and clarify self-concept in order to make a connection between the articulated goals and those of the course.

  1. #33 Focused Autobiogrphical Sketches: Students write a brief description of a successful learning experience they had relevant to the course material.
  2. #34 Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklist: Students complete a checklist survey to indicate their knowledge, skills and interest in various course topics.
  3. #35 Goal Ranking and Matching: Students list and prioritize 3 to 5 goals they have for their own learning in the course.
  4. #36 Self-Assessment Ways of Learning: Students compare themselves with several different "learning styles" profiles to find the most likely match.

VIII. Assessing course-related learning and study skills, strategies, and behaviors
The CATS in this group focus both student and teacher attention on the behaviors the student actually engages in when trying to learn.

  1. #37 Productive Study-Time Logs: Students complete a study log to record the quantity and quality of time spent studying for a specific course.
  2. #38 Punctuated Lectures: Students briefly reflect then create a written record of their listening level of a lecture. Repeat twice in the same lecture and 2-3 times over 2 to 3 weeks.
  3. #39 Process Analysis: students outline the process they take in completing a specified assignment.
  4. #40 Diagnostic Learning Logs: students wirte to learn by identifying, diagnosing, and prescribing solutions to their own learning problems.

IX. Assessing Learner Reactions to Teachers and Teaching
The CATS in this group are designed to provide context-specific feedback that can improve teaching within a particular course.

  1. #41 Chain Notes: On an index card that is distributed in advance, each student responds to an open-ended prompt about his or her mental activity that is answered in less than a minute.
  2. #42 Electronic Survey Feedback: students respond to a question or short series of questions about the effectiveness of the course.
  3. #43 Teacher-designed Feedback Forms: Students respond to specific question through a focused feedback form about the effectiveness of a particular class session.
  4. #44 Group Instructional Feedback Technique: students respond to three questions related to the student's learning in the course.
  5. #45 Classroom Assessment Quality Circles: A group or groups of students provide the instructor with ongoing assessment of the course through structured interactions.

X. Assessing Learner Reactions to Class Activities, Assignments, and Materials
The CATS in this group are designed to give teachers information that will help them improve their course materials and assignments.

  1. #46 RSQC" (recall, summarize, question, connect and comment): students write brief statements that recall, summarize, question, connect and comment on meaningful points from previous class.
  2. #47 Group-Work Evaluation: Students complete a brief survey about how their group is functioning and make suggestions for improving the group process.
  3. #48 Reading Rating Sheets: Students complete a brief survey about how their group is functioning and make suggestions for improving the group process.
  4. #49 Assignment Assessments: Students respond to 2 or 3 open-ended questions about the value of an assignment to their learning.
  5. #50 Exam Evaluations: Students provide feedback about an exam's learning value and/or format.

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