Classroom Assessment Techniques ; Book Review

Classroom Assessment Techniques; A Handbook for College Teachers [Book] / auth. Angelo Thomas A and Cross K Patricia. – San Fransisco: Jossey-Bash Publishers, 1993. – Vol. 2.

Cross and Angelo’s “Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teacher” is an essential resource for all new and seasoned college instructors to have access to.  The primary topic of the text is classroom assessment techniques. The authors provide readers with a guideline for creating, conducting, and maintaining classroom assessment techniques to ensure students are meeting course learning objectives.  The text is separated into three parts, each focusing on a different aspect of assessing learning in the college classroom.  Part one of the text, “Getting Started in Classroom Assessment”, emphasizes the construction of classroom assessment tools.  This section presents classroom assessment techniques in a simple, yet detailed, manner that makes the content presented in the text extremely accessible to readers.  This section shares the purpose, importance of, and steps for creating an effective classroom assessment tool.

In part two of the text, Angelo and Cross actually provide illustrations and examples of the tools they presented in part one.  This section of the text provides countless examples of classroom assessment tools that target different learning skills including creative thinking, problem-solving, self-awareness, critical thinking, assessing prior knowledge, and assessing course-related knowledge.  Finally, part three of the text breakdowns information about classroom assessments that they have gained through their own research, faculty experience reports, surveys, and group observations throughout the past six years.


Key Takeaways

There were two takeaways from the text that I found both interesting and/or helpful.


  • I found the authors’ inclusion of actual classroom assessment techniques very helpful.  As a new instructor, I understand the importance of constantly assessing student learning.  However, prior to reading this text, the idea of creating and/or implementing a classroom assessment tool seemed cumbersome.  I will definitely be referring to this text in the future for ideas and examples of classroom assessment techniques.


  • In part one of the text, the authors present seven basic assumptions of classroom assessment. As I navigated through these the 4th assumption listed really stood out to me.  The assumption states, “The type of assessment most likely to improve teaching and learning is that conducted by faculty to answer questions they themselves have formulated in response to issues or problems in their own teaching” (pg. 9).  This statement was very interesting because it really emphasizes the need for instructors to be open to self-criticism and self- evaluation.  This idea reminds me of techniques that my instructors in education/teaching related course required my classmates and me to participate in.  For example, in one course we were required to teach a course on campus, record ourselves teaching, and review the video in front of our fellow classmates.  This activity was by far one of the scariest things I have ever done.  However, I now see the importance of being able to assess yourself as an instructor.

Overall, I really enjoyed the text.  As a new instructor, I am always welcome to suggestions and resources that will help me ensure my students are learning and my teaching is effective.  After all, “teaching without learning is just talking” (pg. 3).



SW 200 History of Social Welfare in the US

I have been observing the SW 200 course throughout the semester.  The undergraduate course is offered both online and on campus.  My review will focus on the section of the course that is offered online.  The following information was taken from the SW 200 course syllabus.

CSWE Core Competency 2.1.5

Engage in Policy Practice

Course Description:

Study of the historical development of social welfare, the social work profession, and the

philosophical bases for the provision of various social welfare services to persons

throughout the life course. Major consideration is given to the development of social

welfare programs and services within a political and economic context, with particular

attention to influential social values in the United States.

There are no required prerequisites for enrollment in the course.  Students who participate in course activities will be able to do the following at the end of the semester:


  • Describe the development of social welfare within the political, economic, and philosophical framework of the United States.
  • Describe the development of social work as a profession and its relationship to social welfare as an institution.
  • Describe how societal values and attitudes have shaped the institution of social welfare.
  • Critically analyze documents that illustrate social welfare policies and programs of past times in the United States.
  • Describe societal responses to the needs of older adults, people of color, women, and gay and lesbian persons.

The course is administered via the Blackboard Learn system and is comprised of 6 discussion post, 15 quizzes, and 2 course assignments.

Discussion Post

Students are required to complete 6 discussion post throughout the semester.  Each discussion post focuses on the previously discussed material (previous chapters, readings).  Students are required to provided responses to each instructor provided discussion prompt in 2-3 sentences per question.  Discussion post is worth 35% of students’ overall grade.


Students are required to complete 15 quizzes throughout the semester.  The quizzes are timed are not available following the scheduled due date unless authorized by the instructor.  Students have 1 attempt to complete each assigned quiz.  Quizzes are worth 30% of students’ overall grade.


Students are required to complete two assignments throughout the semester (assignment 1 due around midterm and assignment 2 due and the end of the semester).  Each assignment requires students to analyze and share specific concepts and events previously discussed throughout the course.  Students are required to meet a specific word count upon submission of each assignment and each assignment must be submitted following APA guidelines.  The course assignments are worth 35% of students’ overall grade.


Personal Review of the Course

The course appears to be a very helpful course for undergraduate students who plan to pursue careers in helping professions.  As I reviewed the course material, I began to reflect on my personal experience with this course during my undergraduate study.  For the social work profession, this course is essential because it introduces students to the history of social welfare, which is basically the foundation of the social work profession.  One interesting fact about this particular course during the current semester is that the course is being offered to students outside of the social work department for the first time this semester.  This new policy allows students to take the course as a history elective with no restrictions on the student’s major discipline of study.  However, it is important for course instructors to recognize this new development and tailor course material and assignments to reflect this diversification.  This will allow non-social work students with an avenue through which they can relate course material to their specific areas of interest.

Overall the course appears to be very informing and successful in introducing students to major social welfare related concepts and historical events throughout the United States History.  While course assignments are not extremely difficult, it seems that they were done in consideration the uniqueness of students enrolled.  This consideration includes classification of students (undergraduate) and respect of diversity of students. I am very interested to see how this course continues to evolve throughout the years.  The course has the potential to impact the way other helping professional interact with social workers, especially in settings, such as healthcare, where interdisciplinary teams are common.

Barkley Book Review

Student Engagement Techniques; A Handbook for College Faculty [Book] / auth. Barkley Elizabeth. – SanFransico : Jossey-Bass, 2010.


In her book, Student Engagement Techniques, Elizabeth Barkley tackles a subject the often concerns most college educators, achieving and maintaining student engagement.   In her book Barkley strategically separates information into three very helpful sections to assist with guiding the reader.   She titles the first section A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Student Engagement.  In this section Barkley provides foundational information related to student engagement in the college classroom.  She follows this section with sections 2 and 3 which include tips and strategies for achieving various classroom goals and student engagement techniques, respectively. The content within each section is discussed below.

Part 1: A Conceptual Framework for Understanding Student Engagement

 In part one of the text Barkley provides readers with background information for key terms and ideas that are pertinent in the “student engagement” discussion. These key terms include engagement, motivation, synergy, active learning, theory, and practice.  Barkley not only provides a definition for these terms but she also demonstrates how these terms relate to one another.  For example, Barkley shares “engagement is rooted in motivation” (pg. 5).  She then provides a Venn Diagram demonstrating the relationship between engagement, motivation, and active learning.  The diagram suggests that “when motivation and active learning are combined, student engagement is promoted” (pg.6).

Barkley also provides a model for impacting student motivation.  She identifies value and expectancy suggesting that the “effort that people are willing to expend on a task is the product of the degree to which they expect to be able to perform the task successfully (expectancy) and the degree to which they value the rewards as well as the opportunity to engage in performing the task itself (value)” (pg. 11).

The remaining portions of this section provides detailed information about practice and theory as each relate to engagement in the classroom.


Part 2 and 3: Tips, Strategies, and Technique Sets

This section supplies the reader with tips and strategies to assist with implementing the ideas posed in the previous section.  To achieve this goal Barkley provides clearly defined tips, assessments, and rubrics for educators to utilize in their journey toward achieving effective student engagement.

Personal Takeaways

There were two key takeaways from the text that I will briefly discuss below.

Transformative Learning

In her description of transformative learning and the Perry Model, Barkley writes, “transformative learning occurs when students are challenged intensely creating the kind of growth that advances upper levels of intellectual and ethical development” (pg. 7).  The term “transformative learning” is very interesting.  The term considers the importance of controversy or conflict in the classroom.  It also speaks to the importance of maintaining what Barkley refers to as a learning community.  It is important to establish a sense of community within the learning environment to promote comfort among students as they engage in transformative learning.

Uniqueness of Learning per Individual

In her text Barkley not only emphasizes that certain techniques will not work fort certain teachers, but she also highlights the importance of diversity among students when it comes to maintenance of engagement.  She further exemplifies this idea by sharing, “learning is a dynamic process in which the learner builds his or her mind by constantly making and changing connections between what is new and what is already known.  Deep, long-term learning occurs when changed connections result in reformatted structures” (pg. 23).  From a student point of view, I agree with this statement wholeheartedly.  As a student, I often attempt to relate newly acquired information to previously acquired knowledge as either a way to validate or question the previous knowledge.  It is important for instructors to understand this cognitive process when attempting to introduce new material to students.

Final Statements

 Overall, the author did a great job providing an overview of student engagement techniques in the college classroom.  I especially liked that she included actual templates and tips for instructors to use in the classroom.  This is very helpful for instructors who desire clearer directions on implementing engagement techniques with their students.  I do not have any critiques of the text.  In my opinion, the author effectively shared her knowledge about the student engagement in the college classroom.  This lack of critique may stem from my limited teaching experience.  However, it appears that the author has provided ample variations of resources for instructors to consult.







Bain Book Review

What the Best College Teachers Do [Book] / auth. Bain Ken. – Cambridge  : Havard University Press, 2004.

Book Review

Brief Summary

In his book What the Best College Teachers Do author Ken Bain shares his findings from a fifteen- year exploratory study focusing on identifying the techniques and ideas that are utilized by some of the best college teachers.  The study included over 100 participants who were all recognized has having remarkable success in helping their students to achieve exceptional learning results.  Bain shares the results of this study by splitting gathered information into the following sections:

How we learn

Teaching Preparation

Expectation of Students

Conducting Class

Student Treatment and Evaluation

Each section provides relevant information about strategies and techniques that the best college teachers utilize to achieve optimum learning outcomes among their students.  Bain addresses each section by presenting relevant information using examples of classroom strategies, questions, headings, and stories. This information works together to provide the reader with a clear depiction of how some the best college teachers in the United States achieve success within the classroom. Bain states his objective is learn as much as possible from the most successful teachers.

Bain’s results shed a new light on what it means to be an effective teacher.  He does this by emphasizing the participants’ desires to implement student centered teaching rather than strictly outcome focused or memorization teaching.  He spearheads this notion by suggesting that “human beings are curious animals.  People learn naturally while trying to solve problems that concern them” (pg. 46).  This statement suggests that students are naturally curious about gaining new knowledge that pertains to their personal lives.  For this reason, teacher’s must often use creative techniques to assist students in understanding how course material relates to each of their individual lives and educational journeys.  Bain further demonstrates the importance of student centered teaching by sharing that some of the best professors:


  • Set high standards and convey a strong trust in their students’ ability to meet them (pg. 72)
  • “Give students many opportunities to use their reasoning abilities as they tackle fascinating problems and receive challenges to their thinking” (pg. 87).
  • “Ask themselves what they hope students can do intellectually, physically, or emotionally by the end of the course and why those abilities are important” (pg. 95)
  • “Create a safe environment in which students can try, come up short, receive feedback and try again” (pg. 47)
  • “Focus on helping students learn to reason or create, to use new information, not on the need to tell students everything they must know and understand” (pg. 51)


While Bain does outlines several strategies used by some the best college teachers, it is important for teachers to consider the variation in implementation of identified techniques.  In considering implementation, many techniques are better suited than other depending on certain class sizes, classification of students, difficulty of course material, and major of study/topic of course material.  For example, in discussing the benefits of creating a natural critical learning environment, Bain suggests this type of environment helps to engage students high-order intellectual activities which often means asking students to “make and defend judgements and then providing them with some basis for making the decision” (pg. 102).  It is important for instructors who desire to use this technique to carefully consider class size prior to engaging students in this way.  While some student may thrive in the opportunity to defend a personal viewpoint or idea, other students may be reluctant to participate in such discussions.  The latter students may experience nervousness and/or anxiousness, creating an uncomfortable learning environment.

There are several two takeaways from Bain’s text relating to class, teaching, and administration

“The best teachers plan backwards; they begin with the results they hope to foster” (pg. 50)

 This statement is similar to the manner in which many researchers approach a prospective research project. They often address the “so what” comment to assists in developing and implementing a research strategy.  Bain is suggesting utilizing a similar approach in the classroom.  This allows teachers to hone their focus during the lesson planning process to emphasize the key items that are most important to learning the course material.

When students had difficulty in class the best professors immediately consider problems in their courses rather than their students’ preparation and intelligence” (pg. 78).

 This statement relates to Bain’s discussion about natural curiosity of humans to retain knowledge that relates to their own personal lives. When a student has difficulty in class this may suggests the teacher has not successfully connected the course material to the individual lives of each student.

 Student Centered Teaching

 There are several references to, and examples of the use of student centered teaching techniques throughout the text. These examples range from student centered lesson plans to student inclusion in course outline. This is important because, after all, student are the key players in the classroom.  The teacher is already knowledgeable, or an expert in, the course of study.





Teaching Philosophy

Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy highlights student autonomy and self-determination both inside and outside of the classroom. To foster these traits teachers must emphasize knowledge development, implement engagement techniques in the classroom, and identify expected standards and learning objectives with their students.

Knowledge Development

To emphasize the importance of knowledge development teachers must reframe students’ perspectives regarding unintended outcomes in the classroom.  This can be achieved by assisting students in viewing their mistakes or shortcomings as opportunities to learn, expand and build upon their current knowledge base.  This is also achieved by allowing discussion and exploration of the material in the classroom to assist students in obtaining an in-depth understanding of difficult topics.  Teachers should also provide constructive feedback to students in an effort to enhance writing and critical thinking skills. Student autonomy and self-determination are promoted by highlighting the importance of the development of students’ current knowledge base rather than replacing or dismissing previously acquired knowledge.

Engagement in the Classroom

Maintaining the interest of the students is vital in the learning process.  Teachers can attain this by promoting a safe and positive learning environment that allows students to focus their attention on the course material.  Preserving student interest can be achieved by incorporating various teaching techniques across lessons. Engagement is also maintained by sharing with students the importance of the course material and the ways in which the information relates to the unique life experiences of the students. Teachers promote student autonomy by providing a sense of material relevancy to each students’ unique lifestyle.

Setting the Standard and Learning Goals

Teachers must strive to increase the knowledge of students by setting high, yet attainable, expectations and goals for meeting classroom learning objectives.  To aid in achieving these goals instructors should encourage autonomy and self-determination among students.  Instructors must implement a student-centered approach to teaching by understanding the complexities associated with student life.  Students should be encouraged to set goals and take responsibility for achieving those goals.

Teachers should prepare students to be responsible, open-minded, and contributing members of the profession.

“Earned sense is better than bought sense” – Nathan Logan

(New knowledge is maintained best when it is grappled with rather than served on a platter)