Testing in Multiple Modalities (Course Reflection, Inquiry and Assessment)

social-media-conferencesMany people have experienced the ability to learn in different modalities. For instance, I memorize information best while I am walking. Many students in my class have demonstrated a visual preference for learning; they write and draw information to retain it. Other students in my class have shown their best growth when they talk to each other about their learning. Empirically, teachers and laypeople alike, understand that there are multiple modalities for learning. Why is it that student evaluation does not encompass the modality of learning?

When examining student evaluation in relationship with multiple intelligences, it brings up the question of the purpose of evaluation. Evaluation is far too often a backward looking model. Evaluation can be used as a forward thinking tool that allows students and teachers to plan and prepare for future learning.

Multiple intelligences theory states that people learn better in different modes. Championed by Howard Gardener there are nine modalities for learning:

  1. Musical
  2. Visual
  3. Verbal
  4. Logical
  5. Kinesthetic
  6. Interpersonal
  7. Intrapersonal
  8. Naturalistic
  9. Existential

Students have the potential to work in multiple modalities as they master course content. Learners may even experience a modality of preference that depends on the content they are focusing on.

The potential of each student can be activated through one or more of these modalities. The schoolroom should be adapted to each of these modalities and students should have the freedom to work between and among them.

Student evaluation, even going beyond test scores, may not truly encompass the potential of the student. By identifying the most successful means of student achievement, on a student-by-student level, a teacher and a student can work together with a shared vocabulary to develop further academic work. The majority of student evaluation focuses on linguistic and logic abilities, i.e. solving logic problems and memorizing information. Teachers should utilize the different modalities to reach the unrealized potential of each student.

Student evaluations could be formatted to benefit the student’s learning style. Imagine a testing system that allows students to test in the modality that best represents their learning. In this system, students would still be responsible for the content and demonstrating competency. However, this system would eliminate testing bias and empower students to understand their testing and learning style. In early grades, teachers would work with students to identify the modality that fit them best. In later grades, teachers would encourage students to demonstrate competency across multiple modalities.

If the primary purpose of education is to learn, evaluation should be forward focused. Students should understand how to learn better in future evaluations. One holistic approach to this is through the utilization of multiple intelligence based learning and evaluation.

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