ASSESSMENT TO IMPROVE COLLEGE
K. Patricia Cross University of California, Berkeley
Once upon a time when both Warren and I were young, I was asked to review Warren's book on Success in College ( Willingham, 1985), along with three other books speaking to the general theme of "Making College Students Successful" ( Cross, 1985). I commented at the time that Warren's book stood out as the most scholarly of the four. By characterizing his work as "scholarly," I meant that he proceeded in an orderly and analytic way to build new knowledge on the foundations of what was already known about the success of students in college. Many researchers today do a pretty good job of writing about their own little corner of the research domain, but then they leave their pieces of new information scattered about the landscape, hoping perhaps that someday someone may be able to stack them to build a significant piece of knowledge. Warren is typically generous and scholarly as he contributes his work to the building of knowledge.
Using Warren's characteristic approach to scholarship as my model, I want to begin this chapter by recognizing some of the past work that has gone into research on college teaching. Effective teaching is one of the most important handles we have on helping students to become successful learners. And it becomes even more important as increasing numbers of students enter college without adequate habits or skills for learning.
Some of the work on college teaching attempts to describe the characteristics of good college teachers. The descriptions range from global essays, to extensive lists of behavioral characteristics, to a reduction to the parsimonious, basic dimensions of good teaching. The global images are perhaps best captured by essayists. Joseph Epstein ( 1981) book, Masters: Portraits of Great Teachers, for example, is a collection of essays written by former students of some exceptional teachers. While I am struck by the rich variety in both authors and teachers,