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Module A ButtonTopic A6.1: Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

Learning Activity: Grading vs. Assessing
To complete this activity, you will first examine how assessments and grades relate as explained by Douglas J. Eder, Director of the Undergraduate Assessment & Program Review at the Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.


Learning Activity I - Grading vs. Assessing

The difference between these commonly confused measurements, Eder explains, is that assessment is primarily diagnostic and nonjudgmental, while grading is essentially a judgment about student performance. Delve deeper into how they're different by going to the SIU web site on "Assessment vs. Grades".

Then, search the following list of commonly-used CATs and decide which of these assessments would be the easiest for you to implement in your online course. Study the CATs below for a quiz that you'll be asked to complete shortly:

Twenty Commonly Used Assessment Techniques: The SIU Site also contains summaries of effective CATs can be found here, along with tips on how they can yield immediate results in your classes. Another site, hosted at Honolulu Community College, abstracts a few of the 50 commonly-used CATs found in a book prepared by Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross, entitled Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers.

Minute Papers: With this CAT, students are asked to complete a simple online form, or reply to an asynchronous bulletin board message, with an answer to questions such as: "What was the most important fact or idea you learned during class today?" and the follow-up question, "What important question remains unanswered?"

Muddiest Point: About the simplest way to assess your students' learning, this efficient technique gives a high return of relevant and useful information for a "low investment of time and energy," according to Angelo and Cross. Again, students are asked to complete a small online form or reply to a bulletin board message, prompting them to reply to one question: "What was the muddiest point about this lecture (or, discussion, homework assignment, etc.)?"

Background Knowledge Probe: A typical assignment to ask students to do on the first day of class is to give information about their level of preparation for the course they're taking. This "probe" is a series of open-ended questions or a handful of short-answer or multiple-choice questions that probe the students' existing knowledge of a concept, subject, or topic.

One-Sentence Summary: A simple technique that directs students to answer the questions, "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" about a given topic. Write the initials WDWWWWHW? on the chalk board or in an online discussion forum. Ask your students to answer the questions succinctly. Then challenge students to synthesize those answers into a simple informative (and grammatically correct) summary sentence.

Many other CATs are explained on Eder's site, as well as on the web site hosted by Honolulu Community College. They include: What's the Principle? Primary Trait Analysis; Misconception/Preconception Check; Documented Problems (showing the work and the reasoning behind it); Categorizing Grid; along with many others.


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