An Assessment Dream

How kids learn and use thier minds

If How Kids Learn suddenly became Secretary of Education in some parallel universe we would transform assessments into instruments that helped parents, teachers and children understand, well, how kids really learn.

We live in an age of cognitive and neuro-scientific insight into learning yet we use testing ideas from the 1890’s. After a century of testing centered on reading, writing and math isn’t it time we gave students assessments that really matter, exposing root causes of learning difficulties, discovering the factors that promote life-long learning and help children not just get better grades but increase their well-being?

Much testing is the equivalent of going to the doctor for an infection, she prescribes a test for cholesterol and tells you to wait ten weeks for the results. Then the medical authorities use the data not to treat your disease but to evaluate the doctor.

It’s too easy to go negative on standardized testing. Beyond the tears, performance evaluations and feelings of worthlessness there are valuable reasons to assess children. Clearly, standardized testing of reading and math skills tells us little about children’s learning capabilities. They are rarely diagnostic, nor do they tell us where the barriers to learning lie. They do little to define how kids learn, what their interests are, and discover interests, abilities or talents. Testing for reading comprehension does little to boost creativity, heighten empathy or improve relationships.

Here is my list of diagnostic testing that all children would benefit from:

  •  Assessments that reveal how kids learn:
    (There are assessments for most of these areas)
  • Auditory Processing — Because listening and auditory abilities are central to learning
  • Phonemic Awareness — Still the best indicator of reading difficulties. Almost every struggling secondary student has a phonemic or auditory issue.
  • Working memory – Tests Kids’ “Thinking Space” / prevents instruction that overloads memory
  • Processing Speed – So kids are given the time they need to think, reason and respond. Here’s to slow processors.
  • Language / Listening Comprehension –How well students understand conversations, lectures and discussions. The source of most reading comprehension and reasoning.
  • Reasoning — learning is linked to how well children can infer, establish cause and effect, and detect gaps in logic.
  • Anxiety, stress and depression assessments – not just because these factors hinder learning but to promote children’s overall well-being.

Assessments the reveal the workings of children’s minds:
(These assessments may only exist in our dreams) 

  • Daydreaming and Creativity Assessments – so that kids don’t become less creative with more schooling.
  • Attention — assess the causes of distraction but also what grabs attention and focus, and promotes flow states.
  • Storytelling Abilities – thoughts and conversation are largely narratives. Learning to tell stories is more important than writing or critical thinking skills.
  • Test of Sensory Awareness and Perceptual Abilities – Find out how kids experience the world and discover the roots of most learning, in and out of school.
  • Embodiment Assessment – Kids who are connected to their bodies have a cognitive and emotional edge
  • Inventory of Interests and Motivations – imagine classrooms full of self-motivated learners
  • Passions, Talents and Areas of Expertise Assessment – Discover areas where children learn with gusto and enter the enthralled state of learning called Flow.
  • Empathy and Mind Reading – another edge in social-emotional well-being
  • Mindfulness and Self Awareness – Education and parenting should be as concerned with inner knowledge than as with decimals, dates and
  • Social Well Being Inventory – Everything from measures of food, shelter and care-giver security to success with relationships…you know – the factors that greatly influence educational outcome.

If you know of assessments or inventories of these “dream areas” or can suggest other dream assessments please leave a comment.

For more see Creating Capable Kids, now available on pre-order from Amazon.com

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