Efficiently Measure Student's Cognitive Strengths and Weaknesses and use This Information to Enable More Effective Teaching and Learning
Despite all the talk about technology revolutionizing personalized learning, it still feels quite elusive and impractical to most educators. Even the most adaptive platforms don’t take into account that students need different approaches, not just more practice. And it’s simply unrealistic to expect teachers to have individualized solutions for every student every day.
Some would have us believe the answer lies in learning styles. I wish understanding the complexities of individuals were as easy as Myers-Briggs would have us believe. The popular test suggests that if students answer a bunch of simple questions, we can uncover their personality types, and, like magic, know exactly who they are. They are an introvert or extrovert, thinker or feeler, or any one of 16 categories that purportedly reveal how to inspire, teach and help.
How simple that would be.
Unfortunately, the Myers-Briggs, like other tests of personality or learning styles, just don’t work. Human beings are far too complex. In scientific terms, Myers-Briggs and learning style inventories are not reliable: if you give the same person the same test on a different day, their results are not likely to be consistent.
The scientific verdict: such tests are not much help. In fact, they can impose misleading limitations.
So in the age of expectations for personalized learning without a practical, proven solution what’s a teacher to do?
Understanding Cognitive Evaluations
What about a cognitive evaluation? These are the only tests that scientists know are valid and reliable predictors of how children learn best and where they are likely to struggle. Test a child on different days and you get the same results. The results enable teachers to anticipate and prevent many problems rather than react after a child has lost confidence.
Technology-enabled assessments make administration practical for all students. However, despite the overwhelming evidence in support of cognitive assessments, they are not well understood by the majority of education professionals because, historically, they have not been a realistic and affordable option. Below, we address common misconceptions about cognitive assessments and why technology-enabled assessments offer a practical solution.
- “Cognitive assessments are only useful for children with special needs.” In fact, every person, no matter how bright, has a unique combination of relative strengths and weaknesses. Understanding this unique combination enables teachers to more efficiently connect and personalize instruction for every learner. Did you know that Einstein failed the language arts portion of his college entrance exam?
- “Cognitive assessments take too long to administer to be practical.” Yes, traditional cognitive assessments require 5-10 hours of one-to-one time with a certified clinician, and are impractical to offer to all students. However, today’s new, self-administered online assessments can be taken in under one hour and in a group setting with no clinician required.
- “Cognitive assessments are too expensive.” A traditional psycho-educational assessment could run in the thousands of dollars. Online assessments can cost well under $100 per student, making them affordable for many schools.
- “Assessing more students will require us to have more special needs instruction which will cost more money.” In the select cases that an assessment reveals a previously unidentified cognitive weakness, there is potential for remediation. However, early identification of learning weaknesses is shown to reduce the needs for special services overall. In fact, in the majority of cases, teachers use the information from the assessment to give children supports to help them learn more comfortably and efficiently without requiring special accommodations.
- “Telling children they have a weakness will hurt their self-esteem.” When handled properly, helping children understand themselves as learners, or metacognition, actually increases self-esteem. By helping students be more self-aware, they know when and how to self-advocate and are more successful. When they are successful, their self-esteem will increase.
- “Even if we understand how a child learns, it’s still difficult to support individual needs.” In fact, teachers do this now, but without consistent and practical strategies available at their fingertips and the objective student data to validate their choices. An online tool provides the ability to have algorithms that match a child’s profile with the specific research-based learning strategies and apps that can be the most effective. Have a child with strong visual memory? Use apps with pictures and graphs to represent information to help him understand and remember. Have a student with trouble listening? Make sure that the app you are using has sub-titles and/or uses a clear voice without background noises. Trouble with attention? Suggest a timer to keep him on task during homework time. The research tells us all about what works well, but never before has there been an option to quickly pair the good techniques, tools and apps for the situation and cognitive skills of a specific child. Until now.
Now that you understand why cognitive assessments can be the best starting point for accurate and successful personalized learning, there is an option that is setting the industry standard for self-administered, online solutions: Mindprint Learning.
Mindprint’s assessment was developed in the Brain Behavior Lab at Penn Medicine. The learning strategies were written by a top-notch team of child psychologists and learning specialists. Everything, from the assessment, to the results to the Toolbox of recommended learning strategies and apps that support cognitive skills, is provided by Mindprint online. Personalized recommendations are in the child’s private account, accessible by parents and educators, to encourage success in school and at home. Pricing for schools ranges from $50-$100/student for a three year subscription.
We’ve had so many educators share their positive feedback about MindPrint. Here’s a couple examples.
“I love it. It is a scientist-educator’s dream. It is very well written, just as you promised it would be. I can just see many parents reading it and saying, “Yes! That’s my kid!” It makes me want to take a week off and read as many of these resources as I possibly can.”
– Kathryn Kelly, Chief Learning Officer iSchool
“As the Head of School and former teacher for a K-8 Montessori School, I believe the Mindprint assessment is an excellent and efficient tool to help teachers discover new and helpful approaches to work with students. We are particularly excited about the diverse selection of game reviews that Mindprint recommends for hands-on learning.
– Michelle Morrison, Head of School, Princeton Montessori
Come and check out MindPrint today.