Substitute “CATs” for Vague Questions

I bet most of us have asked the following during lectures: Any questions?; Is everybody with me?; Does this make sense? Most often these are met with silence, but what does that silence mean? Maybe everyone understands everything (unlikely). Maybe students are afraid to ask out of fear of looking stupid (very likely). Or maybe they are so lost they can’t come up with a question (possible).

Instead of these vague prompts, use a Classroom Assessment Technique (CAT). CATs can be brief both in preparation and execution. Angelo and Cross (1993) describe the muddiest point technique as one of “…the simplest Classroom Assessment Techniques” and that “it provides a high information return for very low investment of time and energy.” (p. 154)

Use the muddiest point after covering a tough concept or at the end of class. Ask students to write down unclear aspects of the material covered, then take up their responses to review. The technique has several benefits:

  • Signals to students that confusion is a normal and expected part of the learning process
  • Less stigma for students than raising a hand
  • A more complete picture of student learning than one or two students answering.

Angelo and Cross describe 50 CATs, across all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Contact the Office of Educational Development for additional CAT ideas.

Adapted from Pete Watkins, Faculty Focus, 2-26-19

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