Back Back

Can CATs improve your teaching style?


Dev Acharya, Senior Lecturer Public Health in the Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing, shares his experience using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) to enhance teaching and learning, benefiting both students and lecturers.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are a collection of certain activities that tutors can use to measure students’ knowledge and understanding of the current course.

CATs are usually non-graded, easy, anonymous, in-class activities that are designed to provide instant feedback about students’ whole class level of understanding that helps tutors to address areas of confusion that students are facing.  

Improving the quality of teaching and learning and students’ performances are always at the centre of higher education tutors’ activities. I have actively been on the search for something that could help to improve my classroom teaching quality.

From Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PGCTHE) induction and training, I learned about the formative assessment to foster student retention and success by engaging them in their own learning process. One of the methods is to do so is the Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) which I have been using to assess my classroom teaching activities.

CATs allow tutors to explore if students are:

  • Familiar with the background of the session to understand the lectures
  • Utilising knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to reflect into their work (e.g. essay, assignment, own lives)
  • Aware of the steps they use in problem-solving
  • Informed about the leaning outcome to understand the session

There are many forms of CATs, which I’ve included below. Personally, I have been using the one-minute paper or muddiest point techniques during the last few minutes of my class period. In my experience, I find this method very helpful in gathering useful information from the students and provided me an insight to address their concerns and to revise my teaching strategy.Check out the techniques below and see what works best for you and your students.

One minute paper
This method presents one to two questions in which students identify the most significant things they have learned from a given lecture, discussion, or assignment. For example:

  • What was the most important thing you learned during this class?
  • What important question remains unanswered?

Give students one to two minutes to write a response on a paper or use something like mentimeter to look at their responses quickly and respond to them.

Muddiest point
This focuses mainly on areas of uncertainty or misunderstanding. For example:

  • What was the muddiest point in today’s session?

Give them one to two minutes to respond and gather their responses.

Background Knowledge Probe
This is a short and simple evaluation of student’s understanding that can uncover a proper area of the session or course to begin. The tutor reviews and identifies common misunderstandings that most students have already confronting. 


Problem identification
Find some problems which can be resolved mainly by the approaches that you discussed in the classroom. Now ask students to identify by name.

  • Which approach is relevant to solve these problems?

This task works best when only one approach can be used for each problem.


Application cards
Ask students to provide at least one or two applications of the principles/theories they learned in the classroom into their everyday life experiences and how it impacted on them.


Student-produced exam questions
At least a week or two before an exam, share the general guidelines about the types of questions you prepare to ask on the exam. Ask students to write and answer one to two questions like those they expect to see on the exam.


Opinion polls
If you think that your students may have pre-existing questions and opinions about the course, then develop a short two to four questionnaires to help reveal their opinions.


Problem-solving skills
Select one to two problems and ask students to write down the actions they would take in solving them with the justification. This method is particularly helpful at the beginning of the course or as a regular part of the assigned homework.


Directed paraphrasing
Students are asked to produce their own justification of a concept/approach. They are then asked to explain the concept/approach in your own words to classmates or a targeted audience (e.g. parents, children, friends, someone in a different field, etc.).  

Classmates and the tutor can then ask to follow up questions to confirm for understanding.

Interesting right? I’d highly recommend to give it a go, it’s been an invaluable tool in my classes lately and certainly improved the learning experience for both myself and my students.

Got any questions? Feel free to get in touch or take a look at some of the recommended papers below.

  • Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993). Classroom Assessment Technologies(Second Edition). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers
  • Goldstein, G.S. (2007). Using classroom assessment techniques in an introductory statistics class, College Teaching, 55, 2,77-82.
  • Levinson-Rose, J., & Menges, R. J. (1981). Improving College Teaching: A Critical Review of Research. Review of Educational Research, 51(3), 403–434.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

Share this release