Center for Assessment & Improvement of Learning

CAT Applications in the Discipline

Our workshops prepare faculty to develop CAT Applications to use in their courses. These assignments are designed to complement high impact educational practices and encourage students to develop critical thinking skills while learning discipline content.

CAT Applications (CAT Apps) are course assignments that allow faculty to simultaneously assess mastery of discipline content and critical thinking skills by providing students with opportunities to think critically about issues and problems in the discipline. These assignments provide an alternative to course assessments that focus primarily on the rote retention of information. While faculty have become more comfortable with implementing high-impact teaching practices, a lack of training and available resources leads to a disconnect between teaching and assessment practices.

In these situations, faculty are demonstrating the value of higher order thinking skills but assessing lower order skills. This disconnect shifts student focus to these lower order skills as that is where their grades are derived. By reconnecting teaching and assessment practices, faculty tie their course assessments with their student learning goals, a process known as construct alignment. 

Assessing student performance allows faculty to become aware of student weaknesses. With this awareness, providing faculty training to strengthen course assignments and assessments can help improve students learning.

CAT Apps are based on the framework of the CAT instrument. In combining CAT scores with CAT Apps as a faculty development opportunity, faculty see first hand student weaknesses, make connections with other faculty interested in critical thinking, and learn a new assessment structure to use in their courses.

The community based approach of the CAT and CAT Apps encourages participants to work together toward a common goal to complete these assignment activities. Also, these groups allow successes in one area to be more easily replicated by others.

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