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Classroom Assessment Techniques

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Cartoon image of a kitty cat.  Cat is animated on mouse over with the word C-A-T appearing.

Arthur B. Ellis, Clark R. Landis, Kathleen Meeker
Department of Chemistry
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Arthur B. Ellis

"...I began exploring ways to improve my teaching techniques...[I thought] ConcepTests might make the course more accessible and user-friendly...I then asked my class of 250 to turn to their neighbor, introduce themselves, and persuade their neighbor that their answer was correct. There was a moment of stunned silence, like the class was thinking "You mean he's going to let us talk in class?" Then the class erupted into animated discussion. The intensity of engagement was absolutely exhilarating..."


  • The instructor obtains immediate feedback on the level of class understanding.
  • Students obtain immediate practice in using SMET terminology and concepts.
  • Students have an opportunity to enhance teamwork and communication skills.
  • Many instructors have reported substantial improvements in class attendance and attitude toward the course.

The instructor presents one or more questions during class involving key concepts, along with several possible answers. Students in the class indicate by, for example, a show of hands, which answer they think is correct. If most of the class has not identified the correct answer, students are given a short time in lecture to try to persuade their neighbor(s) that their answer is correct. The question is asked a second time by the instructor to gauge class mastery. Many variations on this general CAT exist. A video clip illustrating the method is part of this CAT.


Purpose of Assessment: To estimate class learning in real time.
Instructor Preparation Time: Some time is needed to create ConcepTests. For some disciplines, hundreds of sample questions exist on websites as a time-saving resource.
Preparing Your Students: Students require minimal training though sustained use in class helps students become comfortable with the method.
Class Time: ConcepTests typically last from less than a minute to several minutes.
Disciplines: Appropriate for all.
Class Size: Best with classes of at least a dozen students. Successfully used in large lecture classes.
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: None. The method can be used in conjunction with worksheets, lecture demonstrations, and computer animations and filmclips.
Individual or Group Involvement: Small group of 2 or 3 students.
Analyzing Results: Minimal.
Other Things to Consider: It is more difficult to predict how much material will be covered in a lecture. It may take a sustained effort for an instructor and class to become comfortable and work effectively with ConcepTests.

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