Thursday, October 23, 2008

Assessing How I Learn

What tools can you teach your students to use to assess the ways in which they learn, and how can these tools help them succeed in school?

Let's start with the premise that every child is born with an innate desire to learn. Now, consider the possibility that given the right environment and the right stimuli every child possesses at least one kind of intelligence in which they can excel.

Unfortunately, our schools are not traditionally designed to celebrate these ideas. We spend a lot more time focusing on what our students don't know how to do than on learning about where their true strengths lie.

If you really think about it, most of the assessment we do in the classroom is designed to help us figure out what our students don't know about a particular subject, topic, concept, etc. We learn a lot about their deficiencies, but their assets often remain hidden unless you happen to be teaching a subject in which they naturally excel. What if things were different?

What would happen if you knew what each of your students needed in order to excel?
If you knew each of your students' Learning Styles (their strongest and their weakest) you could group them and differentiate assignments accordingly. If you knew where each of your students fell on the spectrum of Multiple Intelligences you could provide them with projects that play to the ways in which they are smart and allow them to demonstrate their knowledge of certain topics in a mode that comes most naturally.

Consider some of these assessment tools and resources:

Learning Styles Online Questionnaire Gives you a quick print-out with your results and includes good descriptions of each of eight learning styles and the things learners can do to excel in their particular areas of strength.
Learning Styles Inventory Online but also can be printed as a hand-out.
Learning Styles Inventory Print from the online version, can easily be filled out by elementary and middle school students.
Find My Strengths An online Mulitiple Intelligences assessment.

What would happen if your students knew the learning style modifications they would have to make to best understand each concept you teach?
Teaching students about learning styles is definitely not in the standard curriculum, but the more students learn about the way their brains work, how they process and receive information, the better equipped they will be to take control of their own learning now and in the future. You can help them build this essential skill by making the process of assessing Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences transparent. Involve students in reviewing the data gathered from these tests and help them develop study and note-taking strategies that utilize their strengths and help to improve their weaknesses.

Consider some of these activities and resources:
Multiple Intelligences Activity Chart Lists activities ideal for each of eight intelligences.
Multiple Intelligences - How to Teach Anything 8 Ways Resources and information.
Student Learning Strengths Inventory An excellent lesson plan built around teaching students about their learning style.

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