Puncturing the Balloon of Self-Ignorance with CATS

Balloon CatMichelle’s recent post on classroom assessment techniques got me curious enough to look for the book she referenced, Classroom Assessment Techniques, by Thomas Angelo and K. Patricia Cross. Conveniently our Center for Teaching and Learning had a copy that I was able to borrow.

My first reaction was “Why isn’t this book mandatory reading for every doctoral student in the country?” It’s a very practical guide for learning how to measure one’s own teaching effectiveness. As a first step in doing this, I took the book’s Teaching Goals Inventory, a simple survey that allows a college instructor to identify his or her personal teaching goals. The inventory enabled me to examine, in the context of one course that I am currently teaching, why I choose to do some things in the classroom but not others — in other words, what are the benefits that I think students should get from taking this course?

The questions are organized into six clusters:

  • Higher-order thinking skills
  • Basic academic success skills
  • Discipline-specific knowledge and skills
  • Liberal arts and academic values
  • Career preparation
  • Personal development

My inventory results were a surprise. The cluster in which I ranked the highest number of goals as “essential” was personal development, not something I had consciously considered to be extremely important given the topic of the course. These goals were “develop respect for others,” “develop capacity to think for one’s self,” and “develop capacity to make wise decisions.” However, higher-order thinking skills was the goal cluster with the highest average score. Broadly speaking, the inventory shows that for this particular course, I want students to develop their higher-order thinking skills so that they can become better decision makers.

The next step is for me to investigate whether the way I teach this course is actually effective at helping students achieve these goals. The book contains numerous techniques for doing just that, and I’m going to experiment with some of them. I’ll report on what I discover in a future post.

#postscript: one example is at http://activelearningps.com/2015/03/20/back-to-basics/.

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