The Classroom Assessment for Teaching And Learning, or CATALyst Process, is a consultation service provided by the FDC to all UMBC instructors at the instructor’s request. The process helps faculty gather student feedback about a course while it is still in progress. That way, instructors have the opportunity to intervene, if necessary, to address any smaller issues before they become end-of-semester problems. The CATALyst is a completely voluntary, formative and confidential process.
What is the CATALyst Process?
To be effective, the CATALyst should be conducted at midterm, sometime between the 5th and 9th week of the semester. That way, there is still enough time for instructors to make changes if they wish. Here is how it works:
- The instructor requests a CATALyst, and an FDC consultant contacts the instructor to answer questions and arrange for a class meeting and follow-up consultation.
- On the chosen day, the FDC consultant arrives at the beginning of class. The instructor should plan to introduce the consultant before leaving the room.
- Over the next 20 minutes or so, the students, led by the FDC consultant, work in small groups to answer questions about what is working well in the class and what, if anything, could be improved.
- When the assessment is over, the instructor returns to finish teaching class.
- The consultant analyzes the data and completes a report for the instructor. Then they meet in a post-CATALyst consultation to discuss the students’ feedback and ways to address any issues that may have arisen.
A midterm classroom assessment can catalyze…
- New ways of thinking about a course based on real evidence of student perceptions
- Improved rapport with students who appreciate being asked for their opinions
- Reflection on teaching through discussion of student feedback with an experienced teaching consultant
- Changes in students’ perspectives of their role in the classroom through peer-to-peer discussion
You may prefer to conduct a midterm assessment on your own. You may also find it useful to conduct less formalized, more regular check-in’s by using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). These CATs can help you determine how much students are learning without the burden of additional grading.
All FDC consultations are confidential.