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Classroom Assessment

Classroom assessment is the “zipper” that connects teaching and learning.
– K. Patricia Cross 

Faculty interested in the quality of student learning—and in coaching their students on how to monitor and assess their own learning—can draw on a repertoire of faculty-designed formative assessment practices.

The most well-known and widely used practices are found in K. Patricia Cross and Thomas Angelo’s Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. Simple to use, ungraded, and typically anonymous, these CATs vary in complexity from the Minute Paper for assessing students' understanding of a key concept to the Paper or Project Prospectus for assessing students' skill at synthesizing what they have already learned about a topic or field as they plan their own learning projects. Some learning community programs use the Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID), a protocol for eliciting feedback from students on what is more or less effective in helping them learn. Faculty who use CATs soon discover that students appreciate the opportunity to give feedback to faculty often and early in the learning process.

Inviting faculty to try out CATs or other classroom formative assessments is an excellent way to surface the critical importance of teaching and learning for understanding. Other formative assessment practices which emphasize assessment for learning include rubrics for making thinking visible. One rubric—“I used to think…but now I think”—focuses learners’ attention on productive shifts in their thinking. This rubric has been used by colleagues at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education to support the kind of self-monitoring which fuels the learning process for students and teachers alike. Professional development sessions which bring faculty from different disciplines together to examine their respective contributions to institution-wide student learning outcomes lead to rich conversations about disciplinary and interdisciplinary understanding.

In Rethinking Pre-College Math, a Washington state initiative to improve the teaching of developmental math, faculty from eight colleges implemented The Muddiest Point, a CAT designed to help students learn how to be specific about what they don’t understand. Throughout this two-year project, the efforts to connect teaching to student learning turned classrooms from places where “teaching as telling” dominated to places where teachers and students worked to deepen mathematical understanding. As one faculty wrote, “I used to think that student engagement was barely influenced by what and how I taught, but now I think that student engagement is affected by how I facilitate students’ own thinking.”


Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right—Using It Well
Jan Chappuis, Rick J. Stiggins, Steve Chappuis, and Judith A. Arter. Assessment Training Institute (ATI). 2011.

Embedded Formative Assessment
Dylan Wiliam. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. 2011.

Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners
Ron Ritchhart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 2011. See, especially, Chapter 1: Unpacking Thinking.

Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom: A Guide for Instructional Leaders
Connie M. Moss and Susan M. Brookhart. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). 2009.

Using Student-Involved Classroom Assessment to Close Achievement Gaps
Rick Stiggins and Jan Chappuis. Theory Into Practice, 44:1. 2005.

Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers
Thomas A. Angelo and K. Patricia Cross. Second edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 1993.

Student Self-Assessment: Thinking About the Way We "Know"
Marie Eaton. nd.