This post is part of a mini-series introduction to Individual Differences in Instruction and Storytelling. I lay the groundwork for deeper adventures in Differentiated Instruction, Learning Styles, Personalized Stories, and the like.

Check out the rest of the series.

Every individual learns differently, processes information differently, and has unique interests. These factors form a Learning Profile. But how do we fill a learning profile? Is a student a kinesthetic learner or musical learner? What motivates her to learn? How much scaffolding does he need? To answer these questions, we must assess the individual.

Assessments are for more than just building a profile, however. They also measure growth. We all know of the controversies around standardized testing, and I don’t want to entrench this series in the middle of that debate. But whatever side you fall on, we must have a way to measure how effective our strategies are, how well students are learning, and where our opportunities lie. Assessments are the key. We do a pre-assessment and then a post-assessment. These assessments are not meant, necessarily, to position a student relative to other students, but to determine how they have grown in a certain area. Luckily, others have done a lot of the ground work for us. Below is a list of different types of assessments used in differentiated instruction.

Types of Assessments

From 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom by Judith Dodge:

  • Summaries and Reflections. Students stop and reflect, make sense of what they have heard or read, derive personal meaning from their learning experiences, and/or increase their metacognitive skills. These  require that students use content-specific language.
  • Lists, Charts, and Graphic Organizers. Students will organize information, make connections, and note relationships through the use of various graphic organizers.
  • Visual Representations of Information. Students will use both words and pictures to make connections and increase memory, facilitating retrieval of information later on. This “dual coding” helps teachers address classroom diversity, preferences in learning style, and different ways of “knowing.”
  • Collaborative Activities. Students have the opportunity to move and/or communicate with others as they develop and demonstrate their understanding of concepts.

I highly recommend the book, which can be purchased at scholastic. It elaborates on assessments and gives tons of practical, usable tools.

Gathering Assessment Data

As you implement different assessments, you will want to keep the information in an organized place along with notes that these assessments may not cover, such as interests or learning environment.  A half-sheet of printer paper works well. Draw a square about an inch from the all the edges, and then another smaller square about an inch inside that one. The innermost square holds the students interests. The middle square, the students learning styles and intelligence. The outer square is reserved for other factors that effect learning. On the back, you can keep basic notes about progress, though it may be better to have a dedicated file for this.

Whatever your strategy, make sure it is easy to find. You will be using this constantly.

PS: In partnership with Phoenix Labs, I am in the beginning stages of a web app that will keep this information organized and help plan group lessons. If you are interested in helping or giving feedback, please comment below.

Next, we will sum up with 8 Pillars of Personalized Instruction and then step into the classroom and storytelling for practical examples.

Start the revolution with a comment below!


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Chris Michaels

Storyteller. Researcher. Coder. Innovator. I seek to push the boundaries of storytelling and education.
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