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A Different Type of Assessment

by Sadie C. Hawthorne

As educators, we often schedule assessments such as TABE tests, GED Ready® practice tests, the GED® test, and Career Readiness Certificate evaluations for our students. While these give us a snapshot of current academic skills, they also leave some gaps in understanding the whole learner. With that in mind, the following three self-assessments are suggested as a way to get, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story.

Begin with a personality profile to gain a clearer understanding of how your student will likely relate to you and others. Is he careful with detail or does he find a casual response satisfactory as long as you still like him when he finishes? Would she prefer to do things her way because she is confident she is right, or is she so concerned for harmony, approval, and peace that she will agree with most any explanation of how to answer a question whether she understands it or not? A simple assessment will reveal a tremendous amount about your students and allow you to be more effective when trying to communicate with each of them.

Next, a learning styles inventory will reveal the most effective way for the student to gain information. While we often think of the traditional three styles (auditory, visual, and bodily/kinesthetic), there are other considerations. Does your student benefit most from working independently or in a group? Will a global approach to the material work, or does he respond better to a sequential approach? (Does he need to see the forest, then identify the trees, or go tree by tree to understand the forest?) Does she express herself more effectively orally or by written response? Each of these options will impact the learning experience.

Then, find out the other ways your student is “smart” with a multiple intelligences assessment. While the popular term is differentiated learning, Howard Gardner began the conversation with his book, Frames of Mind, in 1983. There are models of recommended approaches to teach the lessons in your curriculum based on the areas of high intelligence. For example, an effective lesson on the economic law of supply and demand for a student who scores high in the linguistic category might allow him to read about the subject. The student who scores high in the spatial area may want to examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle. The approach can be tailored to the individual area of intelligence, which allows for a tremendous amount of creativity for us as educators while we increase the understanding of the material for the student.

One last thought/challenge: Professional, assess thyself first! Reminding yourself, or perhaps finding out for the first time, your personality style, your learning style (hint: it is not a surprise to learn that we tend to use methods to teach based on our own preferred style of learning), and your highest of the multiple intelligences will increase your classroom effectiveness. It will also raise your awareness and allow you to identify characteristics and qualities of the possible combinations of personality, learning styles, and multiple intelligences in your students. You will also find it helpful in your personal life to be able to recognize the characteristics of your family and friends and improve your relationships with them.

Sadie C. Hawthorne is currently the Director of Adult Education at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation. She has an M.S. in administration and supervision and an M.S. in counseling. She has taught a range of students from kindergarten to college and has developed and conducted workshops and keynote addresses on a range of topics.