Why assessment of learning issues matters

Is assessment just about putting people into boxes or is there something more to assessment?

The best way to answer that question is to look at the child who has been struggling within the classroom, perhaps they are struggling to maintain concentration and follow instructions in the class setting, maybe they cannot work as quickly as their peers or perhaps they are reluctant to even start a task. Assessment is what helps parents, teachers and schools to know how to help the young person.

A child who exhibits difficult behaviours in class is often labelled as ‘naughty’ or ‘disruptive’, these are labels which cause long term negative impacts. Not only that, these labels often come out of a position of ignorance. An ignorance which comes from not having the necessary information to make a proper, informed description of a child and their difficulties. Assessment helps to understand the reason behind the behaviour. For example, the child who is struggling to follow instructions may have some difficulties with working memory and may not be able to recall the instructions so therefore cannot follow them or they may have difficulties understanding and using language so despite remembering the instructions they may not know how to act on them. The child not maintaining concentration may have some difficulty with attention, however, there may be other difficulties underlying the issues. A child needs to be working with the right amount of challenge to maintain concentration, too much and they are unable to maintain the attention (imagine going into a final year astrophysics class without having done astrophysics and try concentrating), too little challenge and there is nothing to maintain interest or concentration. Assessment brings understanding.

The understanding from assessment allows for teaching to be tailored correctly to the students needs. Strategies and interventions are only successful when applied in the correct situations. If the difficulty in following instructions is related to memory then providing reminders and visual checklists may assist a student, but if the issue is one of language understanding then no amount of reminders will help. Knowing the difficulty is vital to designing the supports.

Assessment not only helps identify areas of difficulty or need but it also assists in identifying strengths. A comprehensive assessment is not just designed to see where things are not going well but also where they are. Areas of strength are vital for developing strategies (using strengths to assist areas of difficulty) as well as providing opportunities to build self confidence. A comprehensive assessment is not done from a deficit model (looking only at difficulties) but a holistic model where they look at all areas of an individual, strengths and weaknesses.

At Strengthening Minds assessment is a learning process where we aim to gain further understanding of an individual through assessment. We strongly believe that understanding an individual is vital to appropriately designing learning plans and creating a positive learning environment for the student. Being able to understand the reasons behind behaviours allows us all to understand the behaviours and changes our thinking. The child initially labelled as ‘naughty’ or ‘disruptive’ prior to assessment may be understood as having strengths and difficulties which have impacted on their ability to conform to the classroom expectations after an assessment. With strategies in place the individual and those around them all benefit.

Assessment allows students to blossom by developing understanding. Students who are understood can be better catered for leading to a more positive learning experience for all involved.

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