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Information Literacy Assessment Toolkit: Classroom Assessment Techniques

PALNI's Information Literacy Assessment Toolkit

CATs Overview

Classroom Assessment Defined
When performing classroom assessment, the cycle of plan, do, respond is imperative. Consider the following:

  • Classroom assessment is learner-centered and formative.
  • It assesses what students know and what they can do.
  • Feedback is almost immediate, as it is usually done in the classroom.
  • It does not assess student satisfaction with instruction or teaching methods.

Best Practices

  • Use CATs to assess learning outcomes.
  • Complete a CAT Planning Worksheet to determine which CAT is appropriate for a library session.
  • Test CATs on yourself or a colleague before administering to students.
  • Analyze the information collected in a CAT as soon as possible to provide feedback to faculty, design a follow-up session, or create a tool, such as online, to address common issues apparent in a CAT.
  • "Close the Loop."  CATs are useful in building metacognition but only if students know what the results of a CAT reveal.

Best Practices (One-Shot)

  • Use CATs to gauge students' abilities and knowledge prior to or at the beginning of a library session.  
  • Partner with a course instructor to administer prior to a library session.
  • Use CATs to aid with student retention.
  • "Close the Loop."  Share results with instructor/students in a follow-up session, email, video, or LibGuide.

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
Classroom assessment techniques (CATs) are "generally non-graded, [sometimes] anonymous, in-class activities designed to give you and your students useful feedback on the teaching-learning process as it is happening" (Vanderbilt University, 2020).

Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

The CATs in this group focus on content learning (University of Kentucky) and focus on the content of a particular subject by assessing prior knowledge, recall, and understanding.

Estimated Time: Students generally need 5 minutes to complete these CATs.
Prep time, discussion, and follow-up times vary.

CAT Logistics Examples Follow Up
Preconception Check

Students share ideas and beliefs about upcoming material.  The preconception check can take several forms (true/false, multiple-choice, short-answer).

For example:
Instructor Question - Where would you expect to find a thorough biography of a historical figure?
Choices - peer-reviewed journal, newspaper, website, or book

Administer prior to or at the beginning of a library session.

Information Has Value Preconception Check

Information Creation as a Process Preconception Check

Address issues of common ground/misconceptions as evident in the Preconception Check.  

Use common ground/misconceptions to garner class discussions and to explore gaps in their knowledge and reinforce concepts they already know.
Minute Paper Students answer on paper, via email, or electronic polling:  "What is the most important point you learned today, and what point remains least clear to you?". Minute Paper Prompts

Emphasize the issues illuminated by your students' comments during the next class. 

Administer the minute paper midway through a library session.  While students are working on a task, read the minute papers, and respond to questions before class ends.

Muddiest Point

Students answer the question, "What was the muddiest point in today's lesson?".

Use sparingly, as asking for negative feedback too often can be discouraging for students and librarians.

  Follow up with the class and attempt to clarify muddy points, either via e-mail or by creating and sharing a LibGuide.
Focused Listing

Students focus attention on a single, important term, name, or concept from a lesson or class session and direct students to list ideas related to the "focus."

Use in the development of topic ideas, related terms for strategic searching, or finding applicable/local examples.

Focused Listing - UWM


Application of recall and reflection upon a single lecture theme.

Students independently concentrate on building a focused list pre-class, then work together in-class to organize, categorize, and differentiate all lists.

A way to reflect on thought patterns about what was important to the topic, and the connections students make, alone and collectively.

Three Summaries

Students write three summaries of a new idea, concept or source.

  • Summary one is 10-15 words.
  • Summary two is 30-50 words.
  • Summary three is 75-100 words.

Three Summaries 1 (see number 3) links out to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge which could be applied with the activity

Three Summaries 2 Suggests using Twitter for this activity
Collect summaries to assess where knowledge gaps exist.
Highlighter Students read the same text, highlighting sentences they find important. Then, students gather within a group to share and present the main idea. Students read the introduction of an academic article and highlight the thesis statement. Collect the highlighted sheets to determine if students accurately identify the thesis.
Two Roses; One Thorn / Two Steps Forward; One Step Back Students list two things they learned and one sticky, difficult part of the learning (or a question).

End of class: Students work in small groups to identify two things they are confident with and one thing they are unsure of and how to approach the latter.

Beginning of class: Students share their two roses and one thorn, and then the librarian focuses on these during instruction.


Collect their responses and analyze knowledge gaps to follow through with.




Techniques for assessing critical thinking, the CATs in this group focus on the assessment of analysis, such as breaking down information, questions, or problems (University of Kentucky).

Estimated Time: Students generally need 10-15 minutes to complete these CATs. 
Prep time, discussion, and follow-up times vary.

CAT Logistics Examples Follow Up
Categorizing Grid

Students fill in a table of two-three categories.  Give students a scrambled list of items and ask them to sort the items in the correct categories.

Allow students to create new categories or create their own categories based on the scrambled list provided.

Adapt to have students categorize physical objects, such as physical publications.

Five-Gallon Google Grid 

Primary v Secondary Sources Grid 

Analyze the grids for patterns in incorrect responses.  Provide feedback to the large group through email, LibGuide, online video, or a follow-up library session.
Content, Form, and Function

Students analyze the what, how, and why of a message.

Apply to a critical reading or a nontextual message, such as a database.

Academic Journal Article Outline

Discovery Tool or Database Outline

Look for the answers to these questions...

Are students able to paraphrase content (WHAT)?

Can they identify the form (HOW)?

Can they see function within the larger context (WHY)?

Pro & Con Grid

Students list the pros and cons of the problem or issue. Discuss; compare grids.

Change the grid to costs/benefits or advantages/disadvantages.

Ask students to complete the grid from multiple perspectives.

Wikipedia Grid

Scholarship as Conversation Grid

Discuss in class.

Share results with students.

If possible, present a chart or other visual with their results.

Four Corners Students respond to four multiple-choice questions by moving to the corner of the room with their answer: A, B, C, or D. 

Controversial Statement

Confirm Understanding

Take a Position


Students journal about their responses.

Students journal about a personal experience that relates to one of their answers.

Database Demo Students demonstrate searching in a specific database after experimenting with it on their own.

Database Worksheet

Compare Databases and Search Engines

Correct or amend their facts as necessary as students present. Clarify WHY students should use this database as opposed to another.
Process Analysis

Students outline the process they take in completing a specified assignment, such as narrowing a topic, searching for information, evaluating information, reading critically.

Add questions for reflection, such as "How could you have revised your process for better results?".

Process Maps for Individuals, Groups, and During and After the Semester.

During the Semester: Encourage students to explain the thought process behind their creations.

After the Semester: Ask students to revise one of their process analyses from the semester and to reflect on what changes were made and why.


The CATs in this group focus on the assessment of syntheses, such as the assessment of "intellectual products" that involve judgment, knowledge, and skill. (University of Kentucky).

Estimated Time: Students generally need 5-20 minutes to complete these CATs. 
Prep time, discussion, and follow-up times vary.

CAT Logistics Examples Follow Up
One-Sentence Summary

Students write a one-sentence response to a question about a new concept.  Their answer should summarize who does what to whom, where, when, why, and how.

Tell students at the beginning of a library session what they should learn and how they will be asked to demonstrate it.

One-Sentence Summary Template

One-Sentence Summary Rubric

Revisit the topic with the class through email, LibGuide, tutorial, follow-up assignment, or another session.
Word Journal

Students write a two-part response:

  1. summarize a short text in a single word
  2. Explain the word choice in one-two paragraphs.

An alternate version of the one minute/sentence summary.

Word Journal

Short text ideas: News article, abstract, Reference book entry

The textual equivalent of focused listing. An analysis of why a student chose their word. Examines critical thinking patterns when condensing information.
Mind/Concept Mapping

Students outline similarities, connections, or structures between instructor's concepts and those learned through readings, activities, and/or lectures. 

Students present this as a diagram or visual representation of their connections to outlying ideas and concepts.

Concept Mapping After students generate a list of concepts and organize individually, pair up, and have them compare maps and revise. This enables students the opportunity to be iterative (on the same or different project) for a greater understanding of term/concept relationship.
Infographic Students create an infographic of a learned process, such as the research process, search strategy, keyword creation, etc.

Infographics for Assessment

Infographics as a Creative Assessment

Infographics for any Classroom Subject

Students evaluate the work of their classmates or other examples and provide feedback.

The CATs in this area concentrate on the application of "conditional knowledge, knowing when and where to apply learned information" (University of Kentucky).

Estimated Time: Students generally need 5-20 minutes to complete these CATs. 
Prep time, discussion, and follow-up times vary.

CAT Logistics Examples Follow Up

Students list THREE things they have learned, TWO things they found interesting, and ONE question they have.

Best when used following foundational material (lecture).

The 3-2-1 can be completed individually or within a group.

Students can consult their 3-2-1 as they develop research questions.

Library Orientation

Design a follow-up via email, another class, video, or LibGuide.

Share with students the "most interesting or intriguing" responses about how students will use the information they have learned.

Directed Paraphrasing

Students paraphrase a key idea for a specific audience.  

This CAT is especially useful when working with pre-professional students, "who will likely have to explain complicated or specialized concepts to a particular audience throughout their careers" (Bowles-Terry and Kvenild, 60).

Popular v Scholar Paraphrasing

Evaluating Sources Paraphrasing

Provide individual feedback; therefore, this CAT is most appropriate for a librarian-taught or embedded course.
Application Cards

Students generate examples of real-world applications for important principles, generalizations, theories, or procedures.

Variation of the one-minute paper, in which students write down a real-world application for a theme or subject taught in class that day.

Application Cards Students may not make the application appropriately and will need correction.
Verifying Authority Students identify and describe an authority of work in their field of study.

Students examine cited sources within an academic article and create of list of "authorities" based on recurring author names, articles, written, times cited, institutional affiliations/degrees, etc.

Students investigate the authority of a list of authors and/or publications and determine what area their expertise lies within.

Students outline their process for determining credibility, authority, or expertise.

Students reflect on authorship within the context of the "information timeline".