CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY: ADDRESSING CHALLENGES TO TEACHING AND LEARNING

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1 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY: ADDRESSING CHALLENGES TO TEACHING AND LEARNING Paul Adams University of Hawaii at Manoa Drawing on multidisciplinary research that focuses on the different ways novices and experts learn, this article shows how Classroom Assessment Techniques {CATs) can minimize some of the major barriers to student learning in the curricular area of social welfare policy. The author describes three major challenges to the teaching of social welfare policy, relevance, content and prior knowledge and misconceptions and suggests how the judicious use of specific CATs can mitigate them. THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE is to show how Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) can minimize three major barriers to student learning in the field of social welfare policy: (1) resistance to learning about social welfare policy due to its apparent lack of relevance to students' practice interests; (2) the mass of unfamiliar material students are expected to master, including the history of social welfare and social work, policy analysis, and advocacy; and (3) the prior partial knowledge and misconceptions that students bring to this field. This article outlines these challenges, defines CATs, explaining their rationale and use, and suggests which specific CATs may be best suited for improving student learning in the context of each of these barriers. Challenges to Teaching and Learning Social Welfare Policy The Challenge of Relevance Social work education is preparation for professional practice. Content on social welfare policy and services is a required part of accredited BSW and MSW programs (Council on Social Work Education [CSWE], 2001), but its relevance to students' concerns about professional practice is not immediately obvious. Gilbert and Terrell (2002) explain: The fact that the direct-service practitioner's major functions are remote from the final decision points in the process of policy formulation makes many students less than enthusiastic to take courses in social welfare policy. Directpractitioners are more inclined to concentrate on the development of interactional skills, on learning how to conduct themselves as professionals, and how to engage clients, colleagues, and community leaders and groups. The study of social choices and social values may seem abstract and theoretical, (pp ) This curricular area thus may seem difjqitrnal of Social Work Education Vol. 40, No. 1 (Winter 2004). Copyright 2004 Council on Social Work Education, Inc. All rights reserved. 121

2 122 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION If M ; jj; ficult to students because of its abstract nature and its lack of an apprenticeship relationship. To the extent that social work students are adult learners, the issue of relevance to practice is especially important because of the value placed on immediacy of application by adult learners in general, according to the literature of this field (Knowles, 1970, 1975, 1984, 1989; Wlodkowski, 1999). This highly pragmatic and application-focused approach to learning forces policy teachers to confront the particular challenge of relevance. For the document this trend, see Schneider & Lester, 2001.) The advocacy duty of social workers is made clear in the National Association of Social Workers' (NASW) Code of Ethics (NASW, 1996) and has received increased emphasis in CSWE's most recent (2001) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards. Proponents of this shift toward policy practice claim that it develops important knowledge, values, and skills in social work students. An Influencing State Policy video (2002), Policy Affects Practice and Students/Practitioners Affect Policy, features MSW students,!i Jill i most part, these teachers are not preparing students for practice as professional policy analysts or historians of social work and social welfare. The apprenticeship element that makes the field practicum instructor and even the classroom practice teacher a role model for students preparing for direct-service roles does not have the same force if it is evident at all in the case of the policy instructor. For these reasons, policy textbooks describing how the experience of legislative advocacy linked to a policy class increased their political knowledge and confidence. Students describe how they become knowledgeable about their state legislatures and legislative processes. They see themselves as developing from being intimidated by legislators to possessing an increased sense of self-efficacy and a belief that they both can and should include advocacy as part of their m< in; dc be re IT Ifc in ti\n sometimes make an explicit case for the rel- lifelong social work practice (see also fiv evance of policy knowledge and skills to social work practitioners (e.g., Gilbert & Terrell, Schneider & Lester, 2001; Schneider & Netting, 1999). Hamilton and Fauri (2001) sur- 2002; Jansson, 1999; Pierce, 1984). One approach to this problem of relevance veyed 242 members of NASW and found that social workers were more politically active Tl is to treat policy for social workers as a part and an obligation of professional practice. The concept and teaching of policy as a part of practice represent an important shift in policy education. Through required policy courses, students have become involved in state legislative processes, attending hearings, interviewing legislators, participating in advocacy projects, and giving testimony. (The organization Influencing State Policy and its newsletter, Influence, promote and than the general public. However, they also found that among those surveyed, higher levels of political activity were associated with engagement in professional associations and with respondents' confidence in their capacity to affect the political process. The authors therefore suggest the importance of building a sense of political efficacy among social work students through assignments and learning experiences that enable students to see the results of their activities. ci ei it

3 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 123 leider & Lester, ocia! workers is Association of Code of Ethics ived increased vnt(2001) Edution Standards, toward policy ops important ; in social work te Policy video d Students/Prac- MSW students e of legislative class increased id confidence. Become knowl- gislatures and : themselves as dated by legis- Msed sense of they both can as part of their ice (see also neider & Netin (2001) surmd found that itically active ver, they also eyed, higher re associated 1 associations _'nce in their process. The nportance of icacy among assignments enable stuctivities. This focus on advocacy defined by legislative lobbying is indicative of the increased importance of state legislatures in light of devolution of social policy decision making from the federal level of governance to state and local governments. Perhaps it also reflects the decline of the kind of social activism grassroots movements and protests in the streets that in the 1960s and 1970s made the polite and professional lobbying advocated by champions of policy practice (e.g., Dear & Patti, 1981; Schneider & Netting, 1999) seem mild and conservative. From that older, more radical perspective, legislative lobbying accepts the constraints imposed by the dominant structural interests represented by both major political parties as the limits of reform (e.g., Adams, 1981, 1985; Adams & Freeman, 1979; Bailey & Brake, 1975; Brake & Bailey, 1980; Galper, 1980). Nevertheless, the incorporation of policy practice and legislative advocacy into tbe policy curriculum may increase social work students' sense of empowerment and confidence for engaging in political activity, at least within a limited range and definition of politics. The Challenge of Content Although policy practice brings an increased perception of relevance and empowerment to the teaching of social welfare policy, it does not address the whole of social work education's policy mandate. The problem of relevance is compounded by the challenge of content: competence in social welfare policy analysis and advocacy requires mastery of a large quantity of unfamiliar material. Social welfare policy as a content area specified by CSWti's (2001) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards covers a wide territory that may be new to many social work students, despite their liberal arts foundation. This area includes the history of social work and social services, current policies, policy analysis, policy practice and advocacy, service delivery structures, and financial, organizational, administrative, and planning processes pertaining to service delivery. A widely used and representative textbook, Karger and Stoesz's (2002) American Social Welfare Policy: A Pluralist Approach, attempts to cover this content in over 500 large, double-column pages. The book would be longer still, but the history chapter was cut from the 4th edition and there is not a separate chapter on aging policy. Nevertheless, additional textbooks may be needed to explore other aspects of the foundation policy curriculum, for example Jansson's (1999) Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate: From Policy Practice to Social Justice and his (2001) The Reluctant Welfare State: American Social Welfare Policies Past, Present, and Future, which contain over 400 pages each and focus on advocacy and history, respectively. Additional texts could further include primary sources (e.g., readings from the work of Jane Addams and Mary Richmond) or debates of currently controversial issues (e.g., Karger, Midgley, & Brown, 2003). Mastery of a large quantity of unfamiliar content is necessary. As the National Research Council's recent review of the findings and implications of new research about the mind, the brain, and learning processes indicates, a deep foundation of factual knowledge is important to analytic expertise (Bransford, Brown, Cocking, Donovan, Pellcgrino,

4 124 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION i ). "The ability to plan a task," these authors argue, "to notice patterns, to generate reasonable arguments and explanations, and to draw analogies to other problems are all more intertwined with factual knowledge than was once believed" (p. 16). One approach to this challenge is to require students to learn a substantial body of factual knowledge as a prerequisite for advancing to the more analytic part of the policy curriculum. But reliance tin lectures and texts to provide this coverage, with multiple choice tests to enforce read ing and evaluate memorization, is problematic. In the absence of organizing frameworks, concepts, and prior knowledge, students are likely to be ill equipped even to memorize this new content, much less to understand it and to see its relevance. Such an approach may promote anxiety about which items from a mass of seemingly discrete facts will be "on the test" without developing the understanding that transforms factual information into usable knowledge. In this context, it is useful to consider research on differences in the way that experts and novices learn (e.g., Benner, 1984; Bransford et al., 2000; Charness & Schultetus, 1999; Chase & Simon, 1973; Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981; Chi, Glaser, & Farr, 1988; Daley, 1999; Ericsson & Charness, 1994; Ericsson & Smith, 1991; Ericsson & Stas/ewski, 1989; Glaser, 1992; Larkin, McDermott, Simon, & Simon, 1980; Schneider, Gruber, Gold, & Opivis, 1993; Wineburg, 1991, 199H). This body of research, covering fields as diverse as chess, nursing, physics, history, mathematics, and classroom teaching, consistently finds that when confronted by new information, experts use command of concepts that enables them to see patterns and relationships, as well as discrepancies, that are not apparent to novices, for whom the new information may indeed present itself as a large set of disconnected facts. Experts "do not necessarily have better overall memories than other people. But their conceptual understanding allows them to extract a level of meaning from information that is not apparent to novices, and this helps them select and remember relevant information" (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 17). Not only do experts possess a larger amount of information about their field, but they are also able to recall relevant parts of that knowledge base easily and economically, without scanning everything they know. In contrast to the information held by novices, experts' knowledge is organized around key concepts (Chi et al., 1981; Larkin, 1981, 1983; Voss, Greene, Post, & Penner, 1984) and is "conditionalized" in the sense that it includes an understanding of the contexts in which it is useful (Glaser, 1992; Simon, 1980) The growing body of research on the brain, the mind, experience, and learning surveyed by the National Research Council (Bransford et al., 2000) has led to criticisms of curricula in history (Heck, McKeown, Sinatra, & Loxterman, 1991) and science (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989; National Research Council, 1996; Schmidt, McKnight, & Raizen, 1997) for overemphasizing facts at the expense of understanding. It is also reasonable to expect lhal learning focused on understanding, on conceptual frameworks, and on "L'ig ideas" that enable students to transfer and apply newly acquired knowledge in new situations and to

5 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 125 vpts that enrelationships, re not apparv information i large set of not necessar- L'S than other nderstanding neaningfrom it to novices, d remember J et al., 2000, sess a larger eir field, but. (int parts of id eeonomig they know. J by novices, around key, 1981, 1983; 1984) and is it it includes ; in which it 980) irch on the id learning vh Council riticisms of vn, Sinatra, (American of Science, icil, 1996; 7} for overcif under- 'Xpect that g, on conik-as" that ply newly HIS and to learn related information more quickly is needed for optimal development of social policy competencies. Survey con rsesthat cover large amounts of material and emphasize accurate memorization rather than understanding and fluent retrieval in appropriate contexts may be the least suitable method for teaching social policy to undergraduates or foundation-year MSW students. A different approach to social welfare policy and its teaching, a tradition that descends through Titmuss (1958) and Burns (1956) to Gilbert and Terrell's (2002) textbook, emphasizes analytic concepts the dimensions of choice involved in policy decisions which are applicable across the fields to which most texts devote separate chapters (e.g., poverty and income maintenance, child welfare, health, mental health, aging, etc.). This approach providesa set of concepts and a framework for analyzing a wide range of social welfare policies, if not all. It does not require memorization of a large set of facts, and it supports the organization of the curriculum in ways that lead to conceptual understanding. As a policy analysis framework, it offers more than a checklist of questions. It helps the reader to think through the policy options involved in the who, the what, and the how (i.e., how are services delivered, financed, and planned) of social welfare and to identify the assumptions, theories, and values underlying different policy choices (Gilbert & Terrell, 2002). For students who are novices in the domain of policy analysis, the difficulty of this approach is that it requires a base of factual knowledge. The dilemma is that "research on expertise suggests that a superficial coverage oi many topics in the domain may be a poor way to help students develop the competencies that will prepare them for future learning and work" (Bransford et al., 2000, p. 42; see also American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989; Beck et al., 1991; National Research Council, 1996; Schmidt et al., 1997). On the other hand, analytic tools without an adequate foundation of factual knowledge may be too abstract to be useful for novice learners. The challenge of content is therefore to promote learning with understanding, so that students develop important organizing ideas that enable them to acquire and apply new information effectively and to organize their analyses and problem-solving around these ideas. The Challenge of Prior Knowledge and Misconceptions Although the content of the social policy curricular area is extensive and largely unfamiliar to many BSW and foundation-level MSW students, even the most unprepared individuals bring prior knowledge and beliefs to the material. Indeed, students build their new knowledge and understanding on what they already know and believe. This constructivist conception of learning as the building of new knowledge from previous knowledge is, of course, not particular to social policy nor is it dependent on a specific method of teaching. It is rather a general view of knowledge and learning indeed, a basic tenet of cognitive psychology, according to Schuh (2003) with broad empirical support in many fields of science and the arts and in different levels of learning and human development (Cobb, 1994; Noddings, 1998; Piaget,

6 126 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION 1936/1952, 1974/1978, 1976; von Clasersfeld, 1995; Vygotsky, 1934/1962, 1978). In addition, literature on theory and empirical research also supports acknowledgment of an individual's prior education as important for new learning (Alexander & Murphy, 1998). In the case of social policy, it can be assumed that students bring a set of informal beliefs to class not necessarily conscious, lucid, consistent, or accurate about every topic covered (e.g., aging, single mothers dependent on public assistance, poverty and its causes, social security, racism, homelessness, mental illness, etc.). Research in science and mathematics education from elementary to college levels has shown the importance of understanding and addressing the preconceptions, false beliefs, and incomplete or naive understanding that learners bring to the study of a given subject (e.g., Behr, Harel, Post, & Lesh, 1992; Confrey, 1990; Mestre, 1994; Minstrell, 1989; Silver, Shapiro, & Deutsch, 1993; Wandersee, 1983; White & Frederickson, 1998). In social policy, as even the briefest perusal of publications from organizations such as the Heritage Foundation, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Children's Defense Fund, or the Cato Institute reveals, there is widespread disagreement among experts about both facts and values in such areas as poverty, welfare, affirmative action, and discrimination. Novices, like experts, have conflicting beliefs, assumptions, implicit or explicit theories of causation, and values relating to these topics. The instructor's task is to help students move from these informal, unexamined, even unconscious beliefs toward a more formal, systematic, critical and self-critical, informed, and accurate understanding of policy and the capacity to analyze it. 1 his rcc uires the teacher to understand the students' prior knowledge, beliefs, and values as well as to make the students themselves critically aware of their prior assumptions and misconceptions. What Is Needed? Several conclusions may be drawn from this discussion of recent research on the processes of learning and the challenges of teaching and learning social welfare policy. Generally, policy teaching for social work students (1) needs to emphasize application and relevance to professional practice, (2) must facilitate learning by promoting the understanding of a large amount of content, and (3) has to account for students' prior knowledge, beliefs, and values. More specifically, policy teaching and the assessment of student learning need to provide students with the core concepts and organizing frameworks that will enable them to put new information in context and to understand the conditions of its utility. Evaluations that measure propositional knowledge alone and fail to ask students to apply it or to think critically about the values and theoretical assumptions underlying policy choices may inadvertently direct student efforts toward decontextualized memorization rather than true understanding. This in itself makes remembering harder because it does not offer the key concepts and larger ideas that enable experts to organize new information into interrelated conceptual chunks and to retrieve it effortlessly (Brnnsford, 1979; Bransford et al., 2000; Chi et al-, 1981),

7 T CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 127 id accurate undercapacity to analy/e r to understand the ;e, beliefs, and valthe students theme of their prior iception.s. lay be drawn from t'search on the prochallenges of teachil welfare policy, ig for social work :>hasiz.e application >ional practice, (2) ' promoting the un- )unt of content, and dents' prior knowl- >licy teaching and t learning need to core concepts and at will enable them in context and to of its utility. Evalu- ^itional knowledge nts to apply it or to alues and theoreting policy choices student efforts to- Mnorization rather his in itself makes sell dues not offer r ideas that enable formation into inks and to retrieve [979; Bransford et New knowledge on social policy may be difficult for students to absorb either because it is so unfamiliar that the information is incomprehensible or because their prior knowledge and preconceptions lead students to construct new information in patterns based on deep misunderstanding. In the first case, students are likely to know that they do not understand the material, but in the second scenario they may be unaware of what they do not know. Teachers therefore need to understand the existing knowledge and beliefs that students use to build new learning. Awareness of one's assumptions, of what one knows and does not know, of when additional information is needed, or of when new information is inconsistent with existing knowledge is important to adaptive expertise (Hatano & Inagaki, 1986; Wincburg, 1998) and is a component of critical thinking (Brookfield, 1987, 1995; Gambrill, 1997; Nickerson, 1986). A metacognitive approach to instruction, which helps students take control of their learning by participating in the definition of learning goals and the evaluation of their progress toward meeting them, is embodied in some practicum learning agreements in social work field education (e.g., Baird, 1999; Gelman, 1990; Hamilton, 1983). Developing this capacity for internal dialogue and monitoring has been shown to improve understanding and transferability to new settings in several fields, including physics and mathematics {Bransford et al., 2000; Palincsar & Brown, 1984; White & Frederickson, 1998). It is reasonable, then, to assume that encouraging the development of metacognitive skills in the context of social policy holds the promise both of improving learning and also of empowering students by providing them with invaluable tools for critical thinking and lifelong learning. Classroom Assessment Classroom assessment is tied to cognitive learning theory {Cross & Steadman, 1996) and is designed to address all of these previously mentioned needs. It is an approach that provides ongoing feedback to the instructor and the students about the learning process as it happens in the classroom. Classroom assessment begins with the learning objectives of the course and enables the instructor to keep the focus on the knowledge, values, and skills deemed most important for professional development, practice, and lifelong learning. It is not oriented toward summative evaluation or grading classroom assessment is almost always ungraded and anonymous but toward enhancing learning as it occurs. It is a formative evaluation that allows for correction, clarification, and adjustment by both the instructor and the students before a unit of instruction is completed. It may foster critical reflection in teachers {Brookfield, 1995; Schon, 1983) and self-awareness in students about their learning habits and about what they are and are not learning (Angelo & Cross, 1993). It is a process of ongoing mutual assessment and self-assessment for teachers and students that involves both in processes that are, in Brookfield's (1987, 199S) terms, reflective, critical, and because teachers and learners alike are engaged in assessing, shaping the classroom experience, and improving their learning democratic. Therefore, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that in this sense, the regular use of classroom assess-

8 128 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION ment requires social work instructors, whether they are teaching policy, theory, research, or methods, to model in the practice of their teaching the critically reflective practitioner that they hope their students will become. Classroom assessment has a practical advantage in that it offers options to individual faculty without requiring adoption across a department or a school. Its use may be confined to the privacy of an instructor's classroom or it may become part of a wider discussion among a community of teachers. Faculty have found it helpful and intrinsically rewarding in a wide range of settings such as Harvard (Light, 1990), where one technique (the 1-Minute Paper) is reportedly used in over 400 classes (Cross, 1998), and California community colleges (Catlin & Kalina, 1993; Steadman, 1998). In any case, because its adoption has depended on the enthusiasm of faculty rather than mandates of administration, because it is used for improvement of teaching and learning rather than program or faculty accountability (it is formative rather than summative), and because it does not depend upon collective endorsement across an academic unit, classroom assessment does not face the problems of faculty resistance such as might confront program-wide assessment initiatives. Nevertheless, Tebo- Messina and Van Aller's (1998) case study suggests that classroom research can be joined successfully with program assessment and accountability. Classroom Assessment Techniques CATs are "small-scale assessment techniques that provide information to teachers and students about what is going on in the classroom" (Palomba & Banfa, 1999, p. 168). These brief exercises, which may entail students recording short responses to several open-ended questions or an anonymous classwide poll, take only a few minutes to administer, usually at the beginning or the end of a class session. The work of compiling, refining, and studying these techniques was pioneered by Angelo and Cross (1993) and became part of a larger Classroom Research Project established first at Harvard in 1988, and moving later to the University of California at Berkeley. The techniques enable instructors to integrate evaluation of student learning continuously into their teaching. The purpose of CATs is "to improve learning in progress by providing teachers with the kind of feedback they need to inform their day-to-day instructional decisions, and by providing students with information that can help them learn more effectively" (Angelo, 1994, p. 5). Instructors can identify students' background knowledge or prior misconceptions, know what aspects of the subject remain unclear after a lecture, discussion, or other classroom activity, and make adjustments from class session to class session and from year to year. CATs offer an instrument for the ongoing improvement of teaching and learning. CATs vary in their uses, their complexity, and the time they take to prepare, administer, and analyze, in this article, the focus will be on the purpose and design of those CATs which have the most promise for mitigating each of the challenges previously identified for teaching and learning social welfare policy.

9 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 129 t is going on in the BantJ, 1499, p. 168). lich may entail stu- ^sponses to several or an anonymous / a few minutes to te beginning or the 1 work of compiling, lese techniques was d Cross (1993) and Classroom Research at Harvard in 1988, Iniversity of Califor- -hniques enable inaluation of student ito their teaching. is "toimprovelearnding teachers with ley need to inform jctional decisions, ents with informai learn more effec-. 5). Instructors can ground knowledge is, know what aslain unclear after a >ther classroom actments from class and from year to jment for the ongo- hing and learning., their complexity, > prepare, adminis-, article, the focus nd design of those st promise for mitilenges previously nd learning social Literature on Classroom Assessment Techniques CATs have been used and studied in a wide range of disciplines and professions at all levels of higher education in the United States (Angelo, 1998; Angelo & Cross, 1993). Anecdotal and self-descriptive reports and case studies have been positive about the impact of CATs on student and faculty satisfaction, student participation in the classroom, and learning outcomes (Angelo, 1991). There is a limited but growing number of formal, third-party, quantitative, and qualitative studies of CATs. Catlin and Kalina (1993) used two research designs (in the first, using pretest-posttest with students before and after their instructor received training in use of CATs; in the second, comparing 18 matched classes that were or were not exposed to CATs) in their study of six student outcome variables in eight California community colleges. Their quantitative results confirmed earlier impressions, but less dramatically than anecdotal evidence suggested. They found slight increases in retention and higher student reports of involvement, cohesiveness, satisfaction, and task understanding for classes in which CATs were used. Steadman (1994, 1998) used interviews, surveys, and observations of faculty and students at Northern California community colleges to study the application in practice of CATs, student satisfaction with them, and their potential for promoting metacognition. This research included a survey of 136 faculty members at 35 colleges, interviews with nine community college teachers using CATs at three different sites, a pretest-posttest survey of 164 students in classes taught by the selected instructors, and interviews with nine students from the student survey sample. The advantage of CATs most frequently mentioned by these faculty was the ability to time into students' voices and therefore to increase their satisfaction. They also noted, in descending order of frequency, the opportunity to reflect on and change their teaching, student improvement and involvement in learning, and the opportunity to join a community of other faculty committed to teaching. The main disadvantages discussed were the time involved and the need to deal with negative feedback, although, as in Catlin and Kalina's (1993) study, many faculty could find no disadvantages. Students valued their increased control and input in the classroom, their increased involvement in their own learning, and the improved teaching they perceived. Faculty saw increased metacognition as a benefit for students, but students did not perceive faculty efforts as improving their learning behaviors and, as assessed by the Motivated Strategics Learning Questionnaire (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991), did not increase their use of four of the five learning strategies measured. Interviews with students indicated that the faculty had not made explicit the potential for transferring the strategies used in CATs to other learning contexts. This finding suggests that explicitness in this area is important, and that repetition of particular CATs is needed to develop new study and learning habits. Recent quantitative research in accounting and economics education has focused on the impact of a specific CAT, the 1-Minute Paper (in which students write brief answers lo two questions posed by the instructor; this

10 130 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION i CAT is described in-depth below), on student learning as measured by test scores (Aimer, Jones, & Moeckel, 1998; Chizmar & Ostrosky, 1999), or on student participation (Harwood, 1999). Becker (in press) has provided a meta-analysis and a critique of quantitative studies of CATs that employ inferential statistics. He shows that there is wide variation across disciplines in intent and in methods of inquiry, analysis, and evaluation and he identifies many methodological problems. For example, when student responses are aggregated over several instructors (e.g., Fabry, Eisenbach, Curry, & Golich, 1997), it is impossible to know whether the effects measured are due to the instructors or to the CATs. In some cases (e.g., Aimer, Jones, & Moeckel, 1998) in which registrars did not make student grade information available, researchers relied on self-reported data despite known problems of error (Maxwell & Lopus, 1994) or of failure to report (Becker & Powers, 2001). There are also problems with the use of the final grade in a course as an outcome measure. Among other reasons, it is unclear whether the grade is meant to measure final position or improvement, there is a ceiling (typically 4.0), and there are a limited number of discrete values on a grading scale compared to the infinite number of values and the continuous nature of a normal distribution (Becker, in press). Becker also discusses many other statistical difficulties with the- empirical research on CATs and on other active-learning strategies (which he also reviews) and offers criteria for future inferential studies. Nevertheless, he concludes that there is inferential evidence to support the hypothesis that the periodic use of techniques like the 1-Minute Paper increases student learning. The argument of this article, notwithstanding this modest empirical support, is not based on the proposition that all the recommended CATs demonstrably improve learning outcomes, which is much too strong a claim for the evidence at hand. Instead, the point is that CATs are designed to achieve purposes that are thought, on the basis of cognitive learning theory, to improve student learning; some of these purposes directly address the previously identified challenges to teaching and learning social welfare policy in professional social work education programs. Therefore, these CATs widely used and tested in other disciplines and professions merit trial and evaluation for social welfare policy instruction. Addressing Challenges to Teaching and Learning Social Welfare Policy With Classroom Assessment Techniques The Challenge of Relevance In order to transfer newly acquired knowledge into effective social work practice, students need to recognize the conditions in which this information is useful and need to be able to access it (Bransford et al., 2000). Experts' knowledge is conditionalized in this sense (Glaser, 1992; Simon, 1980) rather than "inert" (Whitehead, 1929). In the case of the social policy curriculum, the task is manifold. Students must understand how knowledge of policy is relevant to their practice in general (and therefore worth learning) as well as how to

11 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 131 eriodic use of increases icle, notwithil support, is iat all the recbly improve ich too strong 1. Instead, the?d to achieve the basis of 3 rove student oses directly _^d challenges velfare policy lucation pro- -widely used and profeson for social Teaching ire Policy >ment y acquired work prac- the condin is useful transford et. ledge is laser, 1992; -t" (White-»cial policy 1. Students,(.- of policy neral (and as how to apply the knowledge and skills they acquire to the situations they encounter in the field. To the extent that students see policy as peripheral to their personal and professional concerns and learning goals, the challenge of relevance confronts the policy teacher from the beginning of the first class. One CAT that addresses this issue and can be administered at the beginning of the first class, before the syllabus is handed out, is the Goal Ranking and Matching Exercise (Angelo & Cross, 1993). The instructor invites students to list three or four goals they hope to achieve through participating in the class. These goals could include things they hope to learn or questions they hope to answer. Next, students rank their goals by relative importance to themselves. They may then compare notes in small groups to see which goals they share and which goals each group considers most important. After the instructor has handed out the syllabus and explained the formal objectives of the con rse, students may circle any goals on their list that match these objectives and may discuss any goals that are not covered. Asking about goals in itself supports metacognition because it suggests that students should have goals and should articulate them. It gives the instructor an opportunity to translate between student goals and the official course objectives, to clarify what students may realistically expect to achieve and be able to do as a result of participating in the class, and to acknowledge what the course will not do. A further relevance-enhancing and Integra tive component may be built into this exercise. The instructor may ask students to choose a personal learning goal that is linked to their field practicum and to share that goal with their field instructor and faculty liaison. This component of the exercise enables students to compare their goals at the beginning and the end of the course and to see how well they achieved their goal or whether their goal changed during the course of the term. This self-assessment of learning may be common practice in field education, but there is no reason why it could not be equally important to preparing students with the metacognitive skills and self-reflective habits of mind for effective policy practice. This exercise may also prove useful for a policy instructor or group of instructors teaching multiple sections of the same policy course. It focuses attention on what instructors feel is most important for students to learn, and therefore it allows instructors to match course objectives, learning opportunities, assignments, and summative assessments accordingly, recognizing that formal, graded evaluations will channel and direct student energies. Instructors can thereby ensure that they are not saying that they value critical thinking most highly, for example, while utilizing tests that assess memorization of prepositional or factual knowledge. A CAT that addresses issues of relevance and application directly is the Applications Card (Angelo & Cross, 1993; Valentine & Freeman, 2000). This technique evaluates students' ability to connect newly learned principles or theories to their prior knowledge by thinking about the applications of their recently acquired information (Angelo & Cross, 1993). Students respond to a written prompt about a concept they have learned during a

12 132 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION Jrt, particular class period. In the most genera! form of this technique, the instructor hands students cards on which they are asked to list in one column the ideas or techniques that they have found interesting in what they have just learned and to create a second column with some possible applications of those ideas. By thinking about applications in this way, students are challenged to identify the relevance of what they are learning in a policy class to their practice as social workers. Assessment is itself part of student learning, rather than a separate, after-the-fact evaluation of it (Gingerich & Kaye, 1997). The issue of relevance can be brought more sharply into focus by asking students to list possible applications of policy principles or concepts universalism versus selectivity, for example to specific situations in their experience in the field or with their own families. Case studies by journalists on the impact of social policies on particular families, such as Hancock's (2002) Hands to Work: The Stories of Three Families Racing the Welfare Clock or Shapiro's (1999) Solomon's Sword: Two Families and the Children the State Took Away, provide additional or alternative opportunities for applying policy principles or concepts to the real-life situations that social workers encounter. In some variants of the Applications Card technique, both the concept to be applied and the target of its application are more fully specified. Valentino and Freeman (2000), for example, remind students of the concept just covered and give a specific context a social work group in which to apply it. The disadvantage of this degree of specificity is that the opportunity is lost to learn what students consider the most interesting ideas or concepts covered and the areas in which they might think to apply them. Valentine and Freeman's use of the cards is not anonymous and the authors emphasize that the cards can help identify and assist students with particular difficulties. Valentine and Freeman thus adapt this CAT by focusing it on individual students rather than the class, and by using it to correct individual students rather than to elicit feedback that can inform and improve their teaching of the class as a whole. The Directed Paraphrasing CAT assesses and develops students' capacity to explain important, complex, sometimes technical information or concepts to clients and others. As a CAT, Directed Paraphrasing evaluates both understanding and the ability to communicate this understanding to a specified audience. Students might be asked, for example, to explain in two or three sentences the difference between Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security income, or Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) and Aid to Families With Dependent Children. Their explanation is directed in the sense that they are instructed to address it to a "realistic yet challenging audience for a paraphrase of this topic" (Angelo & Cross, 1993, p. 234), such as a family with which they are working in their field practicum or one of the families described in Hancock's (2002) Hands to Work. This technique focuses the attention of both students and policy teachers on the needs and conditions of the audience they are targeting, and thus on the relevance of their policy learning to the purposes of social work

13 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 133 practice. Directed Paraphrasing aims to build on and enhance, as well as assess, communication abilities that are important to effective practice. It also provides quick feedback to instructors on what students are understanding and acquiring as conditionalizcd knowledge from the content taught in a particular class session or segment. In addition, Directed Paraphrasing may be used to make relevant those parts of the policy curriculum, such as social security, that are not readily taught by legislative lobbying at the state level and yet are central to the American social welfare system and to the lives of many clients. The Challenge of Content CATs enable policy instructors to shift the course's emphasis away from memorization of large amounts of new information and toward the facilitation of learning with understanding. They foster and enable instructors to assess the synthesis and integration of information and ideas. Students are challenged to articulate and use key concepts and big ideas in order to organize and conditionalize new knowledge, making it easier both to remember and to retrieve and apply it appropriately in various contexts. Several CATs are particularly well adapted to this purpose. In the One-Sentence Summary CAT, for example, students are asked to summarize a large amount of related information in a single sentence. Students first answer the questions, "Who does what to whom, when, where, how, and why?" Next, they are told to "synthesize those answers into a single informative, grammatical, and long summary sentence" (Angelo & Cross, 1993, p. 183). The sentence need not be elegant. For example, a complex program like social security could be summarized in a single sentence such as the following: "Social security provides money to covered workers, their dependents, and survivors when a contingency such as retirement, disability, or death results in loss of earnings in the United States by using a federal system of earningsrelated taxes and benefits in order to protect individuals and families from the catastrophic financial impact of lost earnings." This exercise gives quick and valuable feedback about students' understanding of a topic and its range in a particular class- It requires and we may assume builds student skill in "chunking," a skill that characterizes expert learners (Bransford et al., 2000; Chi et al,, 1981) and refers to the ability to condense and cluster information into related chunks for easy retrieval (Angelo & Cross, 1993). The widely used and well-researched 1- Minute Paper CAT also evaluates students' ability to synthesize and integrate new knowledge. It may be general and generic in form, for example, asking students to answer two questions (i.e., stating in a sentence or two the most useful thing they learned and what question remains uppermost in their minds) a few minutes before the end of a class. Alternatively, it may be specific and contextualized, for example, asking what key change in public assistance policy TANF represented, or why TANF was enacted when it was and with the support it had, combined with a question on what students find puzzling or confusing about TANF. The more general form of this technique provides feedback that would otherwise not be obtained on what

14 134 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION students (rather than the instructor) found most useful or meaningful. Being more specific allows instructors to focus feedback on what they consider most important. The Muddiest Point is a simple technique that asks students what was least clear to them during the class session. It is easy to administer students fill out half of a sheet of paper at the end of class and turn it in to the instructor. Once students learn to be specific and to avoid unhelpful blanket responses like "everything" or "nothing," the technique offers useful feedback that enables the instructor to provide quick clarification at the beginning of the following class or by or online discussion board. In addition to clearing up misunderstandings and enhancing learning from week to week, data from this exercise can be used to improve the design and delivery of future classes or can be shared among instructors to improve policy teaching in a whole program. Further, data can be shared regionally or nationally to identify the most widely misunderstood concepts or ideas in social policy, and experts on those points could be invited to write brief explanations that address the anticipated confusion. Among other techniques that promote and assess learning with understanding are the RSQC2 (Recall, Summarize, Question, Connect, and Comment), the Concept Map, and the Analytic Memo. All are described in detail in Angelo and Cross's (1993) compendium, along with many other CATs that could be adapted for use in policy classes to evaluate and stimulate students' ability to learn, synthesize, and integrate the large amount of content required to develop the skills of policy analysis and advocacy. The Challenge of Prior Knowledge and Misconceptions Students entering a foundation policy course confront a large amount of unfamiliar material, but as discussed previously, they bring with them prior knowledge, conceptions, and opinions. An important part of the policy teacher's task is making both students and themselves aware of the values, assumptions, and implicit theories that frame the students' processing of new information about poverty, social security, or welfare. Several CATs are relevant to this purpose, including the Background Knowledge Probe, Misconception/Preconception Check, Everyday Ethical Dilemmas, and Classroom Opinion Poll (Angelo & Cross, 1993). Anonymity may be especially important for these techniques, because they require honesty about unsupported opinions, biases, and ignorance to which a student may be embarrassed to admit in a social work class and yet which may deeply affect that student's capacity to learn policy content. As Angelo and Cross (1993) explain, the fact that many opinions are halfformed and unarticulatcd, and sometimes even unrecognized by the learners holding them, only intensifies their power to interfere with learning. By uncovering student opinions on specific issues, faculty can better gauge where and how to begin teaching about those issues and what the roadblocks are likely to be. (p. 258) Used in the first class meeting or at the beginning of a new module, the Background

15 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 135 Knowledge oundation policy :>unt of unfamiliar previously, they owledge, concep- :>ortant part of the ;ing both students e values, assump-?s that frame the lew information ity, or welfare. vant to this puround Knowledge onception Check, s, and Classroom ross, 1993). Anonportant for these require honesty is, biases, and igt may be embar- 'ork class and yet t student's capac- As Angelo and lions are half-?d, and someby the learners ensifies their learning. By jns on specific gauge where g about those >adblocks are eeting or at the the Background Knowledge Probe CAT differs from typical beginning-of-term questions about students' prior experience or personal histories, and asks instead about their awareness of information or concepts that will be important to success in the course. It could probe students' familiarity with the liberal arts base on which the course builds and at the same time help students recall knowledge from prior classes or experiences to connect them with the new information from the current class. For example, students could be given the following multiple choice options about a series of terms or names, such as Jane Addams, earningsrelated benefits, individualism, New Deal, tax deduction, or new federalism: 1. Have never heard of this (person, term, act, program) 2. Have heard of it, but do not really know what it means 3. Have some ideas what this means, but not too clear 4. Have a clear idea what this means (who this person was) and can explain, (see Angelo & Cross, 1993, p. 64) The questions could also be open-ended or short-answer, but in any case are anonymous and ungraded. The instructor explains each of the terms as soon as possible and discusses how they will affect the teaching and learning of the course content. In teaching social policy, a Misconception/Preconception Check CAT is especially useful because the existence of prior misconceptions or beliefs that need to be corrected is likely to be a larger obstacle to new learning than the lack of prior knowledge. In this CAT, the instructor constructs a questionnaire of multiple-choice or short-answer questions that probe the most common or invasive misunderstandings that students are likely to bring to the course. A Likert-type scale can be used to explore how sure students are of their answers (e.g., with responses ranging for example from "I'm absolutely certain this statement is correct" through "I have no idea whether it is true or false" to "I am absolutely certain it is false"). This CAT illustrates the advantages of using the information gathered from one technique to build on another. For example, after using the Muddiest Point CAT for several terms and especially after comparing notes on its use with other instructors, a policy teacher may begin to recognize what the most important misconceptions are likely to be. Values and opinions on controversial policy topics can be probed via either the Everyday Ethical Dilemmas CAT or with a Classroom Opinion Poll CAT. In the former, students are asked to respond to a vignette, for example, a situation in which an agency director has to address budget cuts that will require difficult policy choices about which clients to serve and which clients to charge, or whether to require clients be diagnosed for reimbursement purposes even though this contradicts the agency's strengths- or solution-focused practice philosophy. The anonymous Classroom Opinion Poll CAT examines student opinions that could interfere with their learning. For example, this technique could invite careful scrutiny on classwide views about poverty as a moral failing (or about structural theories of poverty as only providing excuses for personal inadequacy).

16 136 JOURNAL OF SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION Alternatively, this CAT could demonstrate to the instructor and the students alike that the class universally holds the opinions that social security is only for those who are old and will be gone by the time the students reach old age. This could be an important revelation if the instructor presumed the opposite! Such views and the strength with which they are held could be missed or underestimated by instructors who fail to provide this strictly anonymous technique for eliciting them, with potentially deleterious results for the effectiveness of their instruction. All these approaches to assessing prior knowledge, beliefs, and values may also be administered on a pretest-posttest basis, which would provide a measure of student learning and change over the course of the term, and hence offer feedback for ongoing adaptation and improvement in the instruction of the course. Conclusion The necessity to teach large amounts of material that is not obviously relevant to practice, unfamiliar, and subject to preconceptions, biases, and misinformation, presents major challenges to social welfare policy faculty. Recent research and developments in the science of learning point emphatically to the importance of overcoming these challenges and the barriers they constitute to student learning. This new information also suggests that the traditional approach to teaching social welfare policy in survey courses comprising content-heavy lectures and extensive, fact-filled textbooks, and evaluated by multiple choice tests of memorization may do more to exacerbate these problems than to alleviate them. The shift to policy practice and legislative advocacy may help to meet the challenge of relevance, but this only addresses one part of the policy curriculum and one of these challenges. CATs offer policy instructors the opportunity to address all three challenges, to increase students' metacognitive skills (fostering their lifelong learning after most of the class's factual information has been forgotten or has become outdated), and to elicit feedback that will help instructors improve their teaching from week to week and from term to term. Data gathered by these techniques can also be shared (with students' permission) among instructors within a specific curricular area, a social work program, or beyond for larger-scale classroom research and program development. The primary purpose of CATs, however, is not to evaluate faculty or to grade student performance. It is to provide feedback that enables faculty to "become better able to understand and promote learning, and increase their ability to help the students themselves become more effective, self-assessing, self-directed learners. Simply put, it is to empower both teachers and their students to improve the quality of learning in the classroom" (Angelo & Cross, 1993, p. 4). CATs address all four attributes of classroom environments recommended by the National Research Council on the basis of its review of research on learning (Bransford et al., 2000). They foster classroom environments that are learner-centered by paying close attention to the knowledge, values, and skills students bring to the classroom. They are knowledge-centered in that they emphasize

17 CLASSROOM ASSESSMENT AND SOCIAL WELFARE POLICY 137 iim. The shift to > advocacy may f relevance, but t of the policy challenges. :tors the opporlallenges, to ingnitive skills ng after most of n has been ford), and to elicit uctors improve week and from by these techwith students' s within a spework program, sroom research 10 primary purict to evaluate rformance. It is bles faculty to itand and protheir ability to become more lirected learn- -erboth teachive the quality i" (Angelo & butes of class- nded by the he basis of its (Bransford et environments ying close ates, and skills im. They are y emphasize k'arning-with-understanding of well-organized knowledge. They are also assessmentcentered as they use formative assessments to make students' thinking visible to themselves and their instructor. Finally, CATs are community-centered and designed to foster an intellectual environment that encourages academic risk-taking, learning from mistakes, cooperation in problem-solving, and the use of feedback to revise course content and delivery. CATs are context-specific and highly adaptable. They have been used by thousands of college teachers in many different fields, including the arts, the sciences, and the professions {Angelo, 1998; Angelo & Cross, 1993). They are adaptable and applicable to other areas of the professional social work curriculum, such as research or human behavior and the social environment. This article, however, seeks only to make the more modest case that educators responsible for the social welfare policy curriculum may find CATs useful because of the promise of these readily adaptable techniques for addressing and mitigating the specific, interrelated challenges that are potentially harmful obstacles to teaching and learning policy content. Therefore, CATs merit closer study, increased experimentation, and more research than policy instructors have given them so far. References Adams, I'. (1981). Politics and social work practice: A radical dilemma. In M. Mahaffey & J. Hanks (Ed.s.), Practical politics: Soda! work and political responsibility (pp ). New York: National Association of Social Workers. Adams, P. (1985). Social policy and the working class. Social Service Review, 59, 387-^02. Adams, P., & Freeman, G. (1979). On the political character of social service work. Social Service Review, 53, Alexander, P. A., & Murphy, P. K. (1998). The research has? for APA's learner-centered psychological principles. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Aimer, E. D., Jones, K., & Moeckel, C. (1998). The impact of one-minute papers on learning in an introductory accounting course. Issues in Accounting Education, 13, American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science for all Americans: A Project 2061 report on literacy goals in science, mathematics, and technology. Washington, DC: Author. Angelo, T. A. (Ed.). (1991). Classroom research: Early lessons from success [Special issue]. New Directions/or Teaching and Learning, 46. Angelo, T. A. (1994). Classroom assessment: Involving faculty and students where it matters most. Assessment Update, 6(4), 1-2, 5,10. Angelo,T. A. (Fd.). (1998). Classroom assessment and research: An update on uses, approaches, and research findings [Special issue). New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 75. Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Bailey, R., & Brake, M. (Eds.), (1975). Radical social work. New York: Pantheon Books. Baird, B.N. (19^9). The internship, practicutn, and field placement handbook: A guide for the helping professions. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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