Different Types of Assessment for Different Types of Brains

Many parents opt to homeschool their children because many children with learning differences of any kind don’t necessarily do well on tests designed for “normal” brains.  A neurodivergent child may have an excellent grasp of or even mastery of the material in question and still bring home an F on a test or a report card.  This can be incredibly frustrating for both kids and parents.  But assessment is essential.  You need to know that your child is learning and understanding the material in their curriculum.  Short of going into the kind of material available in a med degree specializing in research, measurements, and statistics, here are some alternative types of assessment you should know about.  

Portfolio Assessment

Portfolio assessments can be used to show many different aspects of learning. For example, they can document a student’s growth over time, showcase mastery in specific areas, or highlight the creation of a particular project.  What better way to assess if a child has understood and can use the information they are being taught than to display that use?  And creating a portfolio is about more than just assessment.  Students learn from the creation process, thinking deeply about what the portfolio should consist of and how it will be presented.  A portfolio is also an important instrument for teaching self-reflection and optimally will include many demonstrations of the student’s reflections on their learning and their process.  

Demonstrations and Presentations

If a child learns a new dance or a form in martial arts, she is unlikely to write it down on paper for you.  She wants to show you!  Exhibiting knowledge doesn’t have to be restricted to physical pursuits.  Think about the classic science fair.  Students convey information via posters and illustrations, but the heart of the idea is that they bring an object or objects that demonstrate what they have learned, often by its or their very existence.  

types of assessment
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A rubric can be organized horizontally and has a scale of accomplishment across the top axis (such as excellent to poor, A to F, or professional to amateur). The critical components of an assignment are listed down the left-hand side.  What constitutes different levels of accomplishment for the components of the assignment is pre-determined.  This is a great way to have a more formal and less subjective assessment process and optimally should include students in the design process to ensure its validity for every one.  

Teach it Back

Few things demonstrate mastery of an idea, process, or concept more thoroughly than an ability to teach it.  Students can showcase their skills and understanding by conveying them to someone else.  If they don’t fully understand what they are trying to teach, it will become apparent to them, you, and their student almost immediately.  This works best if the student is teaching someone who genuinely doesn’t know the material, such as a younger student or sibling, a classmate who has studied something else, or an adult who has forgotten some of what they learned in school.  

Choosing an Assessment

Not all of these types of assessment will work well for every student.  Parents and teachers who know the individual child will have the best sense of what assessment forms will be optimal.  But even if these alternative forms of assessment don’t play to your child’s strengths, don’t discount them.  They can be meaningful learning experiences themselves, as well as instruments of evaluation.  

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