Technology-Enhanced Classroom Assessment Techniques

In the mid-1990s, college faculty members were introduced to the concept of classroom assessment techniques (CATs) by Angelo and Cross (1993). These formative assessment strategies were learner-centered, teacher-directed ongoing activities that were rooted in good teaching practice. They were designed to provide relatively quick and useful feedback to the faculty member about what students did and did not understand in order to enhance the teaching and learning process.

The ideas in Angelo and Cross’s work still apply to teaching practice today. As more and more college and university students engage in online coursework, it is important to consider how these CATs translate to the online classroom. The use of blogs, wikis, backchanneling, and other web-based tools allow CATs to work for online students as well. Presented here are several original CATs proposed by Angelo and Cross with their technology-enhanced suggestions for use in online classrooms:

  • Muddiest Point: In this CAT, students provide information about what is the most confusing or least clear aspect of instruction, whether it is an assigned reading, a podcast or video, an assignment, etc. Creating a backchanneling site such as Wallwisher allows students to post brief notes to identify their muddiest points. Creating a Muddiest Point wiki allows students to interact with one another in an attempt to resolve muddiest points, sometimes even before the professor becomes involved.
  • Word Journal: In the Word Journal assessment, students summarize a lesson, concept, or text in a single word, then write a short narrative explaining their word choice. Encouraging students to write blog posts for their word journals provides a relevant and wider audience for their selections and allows classmates to comment on one another’s ideas. The professor might then collect the word journals and create a word cloud such as Wordle to visually display comment themes and elements from the responses.
  • Chain Notes: To use this CAT, the faculty member poses a specific question about a lesson, concept, or topic and elicits responses from students. If the public responses are desired, the question can be posted on a backchanneling site or wiki; if more private responses are desired, the question can be posed using survey tools such as Google forms ( or SurveyMonkey .
  • Misperception/Preconception Checks: Survey tools are also useful for this assessment technique, in which the faculty member elicits information about what students already know and understand about a class topic before beginning instruction. Links to surveys can be emailed to students or embedded into the online classroom, and the faculty member can choose to collect identifying student information or allow responses to remain anonymous.

Consider bringing CATs into your online classroom. The use of technology tools does not take too much time to plan or implement, but the information gained is very valuable and can positively affect the teaching-learning process in your online class.

Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dr. Jacqueline Mangieri is an experienced online professor, faculty developer, and curriculum developer.