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Assessing Your Classroom Teaching

We usually think of assessment as a way to evaluate students’ performance at the end of a unit or course. Formative assessment, however, provides you with ongoing feedback about how well your students understand the course material. Daily or weekly assessments can help you monitor student learning and revise your teaching. This teaching guide will introduce some simple classroom assessment techniques, provide some guidance for preparing for and responding to them, and direct you to Catalyst tools that can easily be used to implement these assessment techniques.


There are many types of classroom assessment techniques (CATs) that you can use, so choose ones that make sense for your subject matter and your students. Because many CATs only take a few minutes of classroom time to complete, using them on a regular basis can make a tremendous impact on your teaching practice over the course of a quarter.

  • Minute Paper – At the end of a class period, students write a one or two minute summary of what was covered during class. If you know that some students are unclear about portions of the class, have students write about the “muddiest point” of the covered topic instead of a summary.
  • Approximate Analogy – At the end of a class period or instructional unit, ask students to write an approximate analogy for concepts covered.
  • Directed Paraphrase – Ask your students to describe a concept for a different audience–usually an audience with less background and expertise in the subject matter.
  • Focused List – Have students write a list of concepts, ideas, and topics that they associate with the subject matter you’ve covered in a particular class or instructional unit.
  • Concept Map – After providing a brief explanation of concept mapping (nodes represent concepts and lines represent relationships), ask students to draw a diagram showing relationships among concepts in a particular class or instructional unit.

Teaching Tips

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when using classroom assessment techniques (CATs):

  • Plan and prepare your CATs ahead of time, so that you can tailor particular CATs to particular class content.
  • Experiment with different techniques until you find ones that are particularly meaningful for you.
  • Be sure and tell students why you are using CATs, so that they understand the impact that they can have on their learning experience; this helps students take the exercises seriously.
  • Have students submit their responses anonymously, to avoid the fear of being graded. This also helps create an environment where students can provide honest feedback, and empowers them to help direct their own learning.
  • Use CATs often (daily or weekly), so students will get used to providing feedback and so that you have a constant feedback loop.
  • Actively incorporate the feedback from CATS on a regular basis, so that students know that you take their feedback seriously and that it impacts their experience.
  • Use CATs as the instigators of small group discussions, rather than as paper responses, to help students see what feedback others have about the learning environment.

Campus Resources

  • Learning Technologies Workshops – UW-IT offers workshops to help you use the tools you need to address the diverse learning styles of your students. Participation in these workshops is free for all UW instructors, employees, and students. Advance registration is required for some workshops.
  • Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) – CTL offers a variety of resources and services designed to promote effective teaching and learning. The center is open to all UW faculty and teaching assistants.

Further Reading

  • Angelo, T. A. & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Jossey-Bass.
  • Enerson, Diane M., Plank, Kathryn M., & Johnson, R. Neill. An Introduction to Classroom Assessment Techniques. Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Pennsylvania State University