Formative Assessment for Students with Disabilities

Earlier this evening, I attended my Diverse Learners class (along with a few other of my classmates enrolled in this class), in which we all presented our “Mini-Disability Presentations,” providing information on a specific disability, effective teaching strategies, and signs/symptoms for teachers to look out for. With this and the assessment in mind, it led me to the article listed above and the following question:

What are your thoughts on allowing your students “re-takes” on formative assessments?

During our most recent class meeting, Dr. Stohr provided us examples of assessments for us to critique. I honestly was surprised with how many common errors the examples contained, especially the fact that these assessments continue to be used and sold to other teachers. I understand that we, as lifelong learners, can use these examples to help in developing and designing our own assessments, but how can we respectfully and constructively communicate and promote awareness to teachers about less-effective assessments?

Further, as mentioned in the article, it should be noted that students with disabilities are NOT low-performing students, similarly, students that are low-performing do NOT have disabilities. So if they don’t do well, how will you go about assessing their learning? Would you be willing/prepared to provide a different form of the assessment, for a specific individual, that might produce better results?

With so many personalities and individualized learning needs, how will you best “take notes” on these needs when planning and creating assessments? Have you found resources that have the foundation of “universal design”? How will you keep track of the effectiveness of different items within assessments on an individualized level?

I also wanted to mention that if you visit the website, in my personal thoughts, a very helpful resource because it has tools, ideas, and resources regarding history and social studies around a different theme each month.

In closing, did you find this resource helpful, too? Was there a specific video example that you found especially insightful?

6 thoughts on “Formative Assessment for Students with Disabilities

  1. Morgan,

    Differentiation for every individual in a classroom is something I find very intimidating. I have tutored individual students and catered to their needs. I have worked with large groups of kids. However, I have not yet had to teach content to a classroom of students.

    The formative assessment link you provided is super helpful! I love that the document provides concrete examples. When making assessments, I certainly plan to use universal design to minimize “the need for accommodations.” For formative assessments, grades are not the goal. Rather, according to your attachment, formative assessment is an opportunity for students and teachers to reflect upon what should be learned, where students are “in relation to that intended learning, and what they need to do next to make progress.” Successful formative assessments help students feel in control of their learning, inspire motivation, and foster self-regulation. If students struggle with a certain formative assessment, I will adjust my instruction and alter further formative assessments to the needs of a student. In that respect, “re-takes” are unlimited. I would certainly provide different forms of assessments as needed.

    I also was surprised at the basic errors on currently used assessments. Unfortunately, we have a high demand for teachers, and not all hired teachers receive the opportunities we do for learning effective techniques. Hopefully, we will work at schools where teacher collaboration is encouraged. If so, we can work together to ensure effective assessments. I admit I am frustrated at the required less-effective assessments at the county and state level.

    Regarding “taking notes,” I think general attentiveness in the classroom and discussion with special education teachers are two important strategies. I look forward to searching for resources incorporating universal design.

  2. Hi Morgan,
    I really appreciated your post. I have a special place in my heart for students with disabilities, and they are constantly on my mind when thinking about lesson plans. Being someone with two learning disabilities, I know how challenging school can be, especially when you don’t have the right help. I think that students should be able to have re-takes on formative assessments. I don’t care how many times they take it, as long as they keep improving. I think progress and improvement on the material are the most important, so it shouldn’t matter how many times they do something if they keep getting better. I substitute teach, so I am with different groups every single day. I have gotten to experience so many students with disabilities, and it is inspiring to see the things they have in place for them to succeed. Most of the time, the teacher leaves an adjusted worksheet or has a particular way they take tests, etc. What is excellent in most schools is that many of the students with disabilities get individualized help during the day. Whether it is math, reading/writing, behavioral, skills, anything. I really enjoyed the resource and found it to be very helpful. Great job!

  3. Hi Morgan!

    Thank you for your blog post! I love how you brought your Diverse Learners project into it because I thoroughly enjoyed the class, the professor, and project. It was just an overall terrific experience, and I did my presentation on math dyscalculia. This class really helped me have a more clear idea of my interest in teaching and that is having some experience in teaching students with disabilities.

    In response to your question about “re-takes” on formative assessments: yes, totally completely, no hesitation, green button on retakes. We are dedicating our careers to teaching students not passing or failing. Progress and knowledge over grades. If a student is really struggling with work I would rather get to work with them during break, lunch, or on the side to give a retake three, five, ten times until they get it then impede on their learning and have them potentially retaking second grade. Not allowing re-takes reflects the opposite of what our goal is to educate students. I think Bethany brings up a really good point about “[s]uccessful formative assessments help students feel in control of their learning, inspire motivation, and foster self-regulation.” If we limit students’ ability to learn and improve and allow for a failing grade to act as a barrier that students will then focus their entire attention to instead of learning, then we are not doing a good job. My point, yes re-takes:)

    In looking at the different assessments we went over in class, I think there we are given a good starting point in terms of knowing what doesn’t work. A lot of the mistakes, too, weren’t even on the assessment structure format; they were on appearance and organization, things that can be easily fixed if teachers learn more about strategizing by putting themselves in students’ shoes and looking at the assessment. The right amount of spacing between questions and answers on a multiple choice section, inclusion of some labels or other information for some options and not others in one question, asking irrelevant questions that are more commonly date/duration of period, what a president wore on a certain day, and more. Effectiveness includes both meticulousness and legibility in presentation and relevance of content, just to name a couple of elements.

  4. Morgan,
    Thank you for sharing this. I took Diverse Learners last semester and found the class extremely helpful for learning how to teach diverse populations of students and how to best meet those students where they are so we can ensure everyone is successful. I really enjoyed doing my mini-disability presentation as well. I chose Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, which I have Type 1, and the two are commonly mistaken for one another or the source for jokes. It was really enjoyable for me to get to educate my peers on the disease so that they can help other students who may struggle with Diabetes in their own classrooms one day.
    As far as assessments go, I believe not every assessment truly shows what a student can do. Often as teachers, we see where our students excel and where they struggle and we can often pinpoint the area we recognize a student struggles when taking assessments. It is my philosophy that whatever I can do to meet a students needs and differentiate content for them is always beneficial. We meet so many children who come from so many different situations, backgrounds and even health issues. I don’t believe every assessment truly showcases a student’s abilities, and so I believe a student should be able to be given differentiated assessments that test for the same content in simply a different way. This is not something we are always able to do for EVERY student, but I believe their are special cases, not including children with IEP’s, who may need help due to test taking anxiety or struggles with reading and writing. There are things outside of disabilities that may prevent a student from doing well on an assessment. I believe as teachers we are tasked with helping our students be successful in any way we can. This may mean allowing a student to be assessed differently who has experienced trauma and has a hard time focusing or the student who is brilliant but has trouble with reading or staying focused. Thank you for sharing your experience in Diverse Learners and for sharing the resources you found, Morgan!

  5. Assessment is such an interesting topic, Morgan. I appreciate you bringing it up in a blog format. My educational background is Recreation Therapy where all my participants in programming were people with disabilities or disabling conditions such as those in the hospital setting and the very first thing we had to do was assessment. We couldn’t even think of devising a program or treatment plan without proper assessment. Learning how to assess people with differing abilities was the most challenging but most important part of our job. Many times we would try to involve the family if at all possible to try to gain some background knowledge on how best to work with our clients/patients/participants. We would create a general assessment we thought would be appropriate for most of the people we saw but then leave plenty of room to add more detailed specific information to the individual person. (Individualized Treatment Plans)
    This is an example of an Individualized Assessment:
    Notice the open ended questions on the bottom on pages 3 and 4. While the other check-list information is important, the open ended questions about the individual provides key information to be able to devise an individualized service or treatment plan. Teachers have to do the same thing. Not all students learn the same way so not all teaching should be delivered the same way. Recognizing the need for multiple and varying assessments is the key to success. It’s more work, for sure, but no educator goes into teaching because it’s easy! -Erika

  6. Hi Morgan!

    I enjoyed reading your post; it has really led me to think hard about different learners and how to assess them best. I believe that differentiation (as we’ve discussed in many classes) is a tool that helps both students and teachers. The students have more choice in their assessments/assignments and can utilize their strengths; for teachers, it can help them to best see their student’s understanding of information.

    I think that differentiation is a good step for helping students succeed; however, in cases where students need to take a specific type of formative assessment, retakes should be allowed. I know that during high school, I relied on my teachers, allowing retakes and corrections to help me better my scores or show what I know (on a better day). Further, some tests are weird; as Dr. Stohr showed us and you mentioned, some questions are phrased oddly, contain too similar answers, etc., and are bound for student error.

    As educators, we must do our due diligence and give our students the best chances for success. This does not mean they need 100%; instead, we must ensure they are being taught the information, retaining it, and showing our knowledge through assessments/assignments.

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