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Assessing Students with Learning Disabilities

Fair Assessment


Assessing students with learning disabilities can be a challenge. However, we must remember that assessing is providing the child with an opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, skill and understanding. For most learning disabled students, last on the list should be a pencil/paper task. Below are a list of strategies that support and enhance assessment of learning disabled students.

  • A presentation is a verbal demonstration of skill/knowledge and understanding. The child describes, shows and offers to answer questions about his/her task. Presentation can also take the form of discussion, debate or purely question/response. Some children will need to speak in a small group or in a one to one setting as LD students are often intimidated in this setting. However, with ongoing opportunities, they will begin to shine.
  • Conference

  • A conference is a one to one between the teacher an the student. The teacher will prompt and cue the student to determine the level of understanding and knowledge. Again this takes the pressure away from written tasks. The conference should be somewhat informal to put the student at ease. The focus should be on the student sharing ideas, reasoning or explaining a concept. This is an extremely useful form of formative assessment.

  • Interview

  • An interview helps a teacher to clarify the level of understanding for a specific purpose, activity or learning concept. A teacher would generally have questions in mind to ask the student to resond to. Very insightful method but this can be time consuming.
  • Observation

  • Observing a student in the learning environment is a very powerful method to assess. It can also be the vehicle for the teacher to change or enhance a specific teaching strategy. Observation can be done in small group setting while the child is engaged in learning tasks. Things to look for include: does the child persist? give up easily? have a plan in place? look for assistance? try alternate strategies? become impatient? look for patterns? Teachers need to be prepared for what they are specifically looking for in an observational setting.
  • Performance Task

  • A performance task is a learning task that the child will do while the teacher assesses his/her performance. For instance: you might want to check some math problem solving by asking if 6 people fit in one car, how many cars will be needed to transport 42 people? During the task, the teacher could be looking for attitudes, skill, ability and evidence of risk-taking.
  • Self-Assessment

  • We always want our students/children to be able to identify their own strengths and weaknesses. Self-assessment will lead the student to a better sense of understanding of his/her own learning. The student may need some guiding questions such as:
    What did I do well on?
    How can I improve upon______?
    Where was my biggest strength/weakness?

There are a plethora of assessment strategies, I've merely focused on the ones that support the learning disabled student.

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