When I first picked up Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross, I knew it was going to be a challenging read for me. When reading the Barkley text I enjoyed reading it and found much of the content to relate to however that was because I knew that student engagement was one of my strength areas as a teacher. This text was much more difficult, thought-provoking and truthfully was harder for me to process the information. I am still working on processing the information (and will be through the summer) and how it will be applied in my classes. There were three aspects of the book that really stuck out to me and I am going to discuss those further.
The first thing that I noticed even before I began reading was the similarities in Barkley’s SET’s and the CAT’s in this text. There are many of the techniques that are the exact same or very similar. This got me thinking about the connection between student engagement and student assessment. One vocabulary lesson I learned in this book was the difference between formative vs summative assessments. Summative assessments being what everyone traditionally thinks about when the term student assessment is discussed. These measure the evidence of student learning that has occurred during the class. This book and the term “classroom assessment” are referring to formative assessment. After reading chapter two, I view formative assessments as checkpoint assessments to make sure the students are on the right track to learning what they need to. This took some time to process as it gave specific terminology to a practice I had been doing in my classes already. This book made me redefine assessment. In my clinical work, assessment is the gathering of data on a client to determine a starting point, while previously in my classroom assessment was the checking on specific knowledge developments that the students were expected to know. After reading this book, especially chapter two, I realized that student/classroom assessment is much broader than I realized and can be included in your lessons. I will be adding more purposeful formative assessments into each class.
The second thing that I appreciated was the seemingly open dialogue and willingness to disclose all information. In the preface, they discuss and describe the kind of teacher that this book was written for. They go into greater detail in later parts of the book about how teachers with different teaching experiences should read or skip to specific parts of the book. The overview section of the preface gives a great summary of each section and suggestions for how to use this handbook. My favorite piece of information that was given was the questions used for the CAT selection criteria for inclusion in the book. When I was reading it, it helped confirm that the authors had put great amounts of thought into what they included and they wanted the reader to understand their motivation and purpose behind writing the book. I know this is one thing we had discussed that the Barkley text was missing so it stood out when I read it here.
Finally, I liked the various ways that the authors gave you access to the CAT’s and allowed the reader to choose them in the manner that best fit what they were looking for. The first way that the reader can access the CAT’s is through the Teaching Goals Inventory in chapter 2. This questionnaire assists teacher in identifying and ranking their specific teaching goals. Following the completion of this, the reader can turn to Table 6.3 on page 113 to identify the CAT’s that match the TGI cluster that they identified as a need area. In chapter 6, there are two other tables to allow easy access to the information. The first is an alphabetical listing of the CATs and the second is a listing by disciplines identified in the examples given. They are clear that many of the CAT’s can be used for multiple disciplines but these are ones that have been specifically identified to work. By having multiple clear avenues for the reader to find the appropriate resource, the authors have also increased the number of uses for the book in general.
I could write an entire second book review on the content of the CAT’s and the approach to classroom assessment. There is great information in those sections as well. For example, each CAT listed includes 12 specific pieces of information for each one including description, teaching goals, suggestions and examples as well as practical advice for how to analyze the data. However, it was difficult for myself to think about the specific CAT’s and apply them in this point of the semester. This summer when I re-evaluate my classes, I will certainly be referencing this book again. This book is truly the starting point for classroom assessment for college teachers. Not only do the authors include a large amount of information and resources, but they also make it very approachable and easy to access.