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Friday, March 18, 2011

Getting to Know Students



I have selected four surveys to assess my students’ interests, learning styles, intelligence preferences (Smith, 2008,
p. 1) and learner profiles. By getting to know my students this way, I can “create a spark” in my classroom by relating language arts content to individual students’ interests (Laureate, 2009, DVD). I can also
improve my ability to understand students’ readiness levels and meet them where they are to scaffold their learning. I now have tools to build on the strengths of each student so that, no matter what their intelligence preference or background may be, I can meet their learning needs and help them meet the middle school language arts standards (NCTE, 2011, p. 1). Finally, using the following surveys and their explanations as guides, I created my own student survey that includes questions in all of these areas to administer to all of the students in my classes. I will build future instruction based upon my results, providing choices in assignments and assessments that best meet the needs of the particular learners in my classes.

The interest survey I selected includes questions about the genres and topics students enjoy reading about. I will need to reproduce this survey on my own wiki so my students can take it online and only I will be able to view their responses. It asks students what books they have read, how frequently they check books out of the library, and what subjects they are interested in reading about. This survey also includes questions about students’ favorite TV shows, their personal hobbies, and their favorite movies. Gathering this information will help me select books, poems, and short stories that will be engaging to my students and that they will be able to relate to. It will also be a tool for recommending free choice books to students that they will enjoy, and even for recommending books that will expand their current interests and provide new experiences. This survey, Reading Interest Inventory, is available at: http://ahssummerreading.wikispaces.com/Reading+Interest+Survey

The learning styles survey I chose, Learning Style Inventory, includes 24 questions to answer online assessing students’ preferences regarding auditory, visual, and tactile learning. The survey tool produces results immediately, along with an explanation of an individual’s learning style. This will help students understand how they learn best so that they can develop strategies that will help them retain information in all of their subject area classes.

For myself, by gaining an understanding of how my students learn best, I can provide supports to strengthen their learning, including technology tools that allow them to view, listen to, or physically manipulate information to learn the content. If students are auditory learners, for instance, I can provide CD's, DVD's, lectures, and discussions to help them grasp concepts. If they are visual learners I can provide more printed material, multimedia images, graphic organizers, charts and graphs to impart information. For tactile learners, I can teach through interactive activities and creative projects. I can also provide support for students when they are working outside of their strongest learning styles. With students’ learning styles in mind, I will provide choices in assessments that allow all types of learners to demonstrate their knowledge successfully. This survey is available at: http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/LSI/LSI.htm

To assess my students’ intelligence preferences, I located a survey called 8 Multiple Intelligences Test at http://quizfarm.com/quizzes/new/profesorrod/8-multiple-intelligences-test/. This survey has eight pages of questions to determine whether students are interpersonal, naturalist, intrapersonal, corporal/kinesthetic, verbal/linguistic, visual/spatial, logical/mathematical, or musical/rhythmic learners. This survey takes longer to complete than the others I selected, so I would like to modify it a bit for my students. I will teach them what these different intelligences mean, based on the theories of Howard Gardner (Smith, 2008, p. 1) (with the addition of “naturalist learner”); and I will help students identify their own strengths. I do think it is important to realize that every one of us has some of each of these qualities (Laureate, 2009, DVD) and that they are not exclusive of each other. Students can identify their strengths and chose assignments that meet their needs and showcase their talents, and they can also strengthen the intelligences they do not score as highly in through goal setting and practice.

The learning profile inventory I have selected includes questions in three categories. First, the “Readiness” section includes questions about the student’s content knowledge and skills, reading skills, and previous learning experiences. Then, the “Interests” section includes question about the student’s favorite subjects, interests related to the content area, and interests outside of school. Finally, the “Learning Profile” includes questions to determine grouping preferences, learning environment preferences, and cognitive style. This is very helpful information to have as I strive to establish a comfortable learning environment for everyone and to accommodate the needs of individuals in my classroom. The survey, Differentiated Instruction Learner Profile is available to print at:
http://daretodifferentiate.wikispaces.com/file/view/di_learnerprof.pdf.

After evaluating many resources designed to assess students’ readiness, interests, learning styles, and intelligence preferences and selecting the four I have described, I developed a survey to measure all of these aspects of a student using one tool. I will have students complete this survey, which may take about 15 minutes, at the beginning of each semester. It is one of my professional goals to evaluate these surveys carefully and respond to the results by differentiating my instruction. I will keep each students’ survey in his or her portfolio as part of my ongoing formative assessment and to keep each student’s learning differences in the forefront of my mind as I teach. Chapman and King (2009) state that we should “use the surveys to personalize instruction and develop meaningful connections between the learner’s life and the subject information” (p. 53). Every learner brings strengths and special contributions to the classroom, and I feel responsible for helping each student discover these learning strengths.

My Learning about the Learner survey has questions to quickly help me discover my students’ strengths and their intelligence preferences. I will also ask students to write narrative responses sharing a bit about their home environments and their previous learning and life experiences as part of this assessment. This survey is available at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3MYGQW3

References

Chapman, C. and King, R. (2009). Differentiated instructional strategies for reading in the content areas. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2009). Knowing your students. Reaching and engaging all learners through technology. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD.

Smith, M. (2008). Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences. The encyclopedia of
informal education
. Online. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/thinkers/gardner.htm.

NCTE. (2011). NCTE / IRA Standards for the English language arts. NCTE. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/standards

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