Ways of Thinking
Everybody’s mind works differently. You’ve almost certainly been exposed to this in one way or another throughout your teaching career, whether in your credential work or a workshop somewhere. There are numerous ways to diagnose your students:
- Multiple Intelligence Surveys (Kinesthetic, Musical, Verbal, Mathematical, etc.)
- Learning Styles (Type I-IV)
- Interest Surveys
- Left/Right Brain
- Personality Tests
Any of these tests could be useful when it comes to planning your lessons and properly differentiating them. Some teachers find one method of sorting more useful than others. Find what you think has some worth and assess your students accordingly. There are other elements to a student learning profile as well.
Content Pre-Assessments: Gauging Knowledge and Interest
Using pre-assessments before each unit is a helpful way to develop a student learning profile. Good pre-assessments will gauge a student’s familiarity with the content to be covered and also help you identify areas they may be particularly interested in studying. If you understand what standards based knowledge your students need to acquire, what they are interested in, and how the think, you will be well on your way to teaching them more effectively and raising test scores.
Keeping Track Of It All
It sounds great to get all this information, but how can you store it and access it in a useful way? There are a lot of demands on our time as teachers; we don’t need one more thing to juggle. The important thing is to find a way to use this information that works for you. That may sound like a copout answer, but it isn’t. Like students, every teacher works differently. You will have to find a way to store your student learning profile information that makes it worth your time.
One method I use is creating a class profile. After identifying my students’ preferred learning styles and different intelligences, I tally up the results and put them on a sheet of paper. This paper allows me, at a glance, to see if I have a class that is largely kinesthetic or right-brained or artistic – and I can plan accordingly. Middle and High School teachers have a difficult time with this because we have so many different classes, each with its own character. It isn’t realistic to plan completely different lessons for each section. I find that keeping the class profiles in front of me as I do lesson planning helps me to remember I am dealing with many different kinds of students and it improves my lesson planning.
You may develop a different way to keep track of the information, but the important thing is to use it. You don’t need more work as a teacher; you need the work you do to be productive. Don’t spin your wheels in developing a student learning profile. Find the few types of tests you think best capture the different kinds of students, assess them, and find a way to keep the information in front of you so you plan in a way that engages your diverse classroom.