Adapting To Learners With Specific Needs
When it comes to adapting assessment methods for learners who have specific needs, it may be a bit hard. But we’re here to give you some advice and guidance on how you can do just that. We’ve already talked about adapting assessments for learners who have visual and hearing impairments, as well as learners whose English is their second language. But are there more specific needs that need to be thought about?
Other educational needs could include:
- Physical disability,
- Generalised reading and writing difficulties,
- Or mental health
So what can you do as an assessor to be inclusive and make sure each learner gets a good experience? You have to adapt. Each student will react differently to the support that is offered to them, there is no one size fits all. Each assessment method is different, so a technique that may be effective for one, may not work for another.
Why is it important to select assessment methods that meet the individual needs of the learner? Assessments should cater to all learning styles but also shouldn’t discourage the learning process. It’s about being inclusive and making sure every learner has equal opportunity. During the initial assessment, you should be able to find out if the learner has any other needs, maybe they’re dyslexic. Knowing this you will be able to look at the assessment methods and try and adapt them to your learner.
Adapting Assessment Methods
As there are many different assessment methods, it is really up to you to decide on which is appropriate, but you do have to use a variety. You have to make the call which would be appropriate for your learner. So let’s run a scenario through with you. Your learner has told you they are dyslexic and that they struggle with writing. How can you adapt methods for them? It might be worth asking them how bad their dyslexia is, as it is a spectrum. Maybe they need colour overlays?
Interviews are like a professional discussion, they are more structured however. If for example, your learner is on the autism spectrum, they may struggle with this. Just like someone who struggles reading, it needs adaptations. What you may think about doing, could be setting a clear expectation of what is going to happen in the interview and the process of the assessment. Make sure you let them know they will have as much support as possible during this process, they aren’t alone. If they struggle with reading they may need someone there to help read criteria out to them. Or on a tablet that has text to speech.
You could also think about adapting your own language, making things plain and easy for them to understand, use plain English, and if they still don’t fully grasp it, then they may need an extra adult just to help them.
Do they need breaks? Maybe that would be a good idea, if they are starting to feel overwhelmed with it all, then they can take a break to get together. Not everything will work for every learner, so make sure to individualise.
Projects and Assignments
These may need to have more of a change. As these are written and reading based, the learner could benefit from a computer or laptop. This just gives them access to specific software, like text to speech or spell check. If they struggle with any criteria that you may have given them, you could have a sit down to go through it with them. Maybe try to not bombard them with fancy words, try and use plain English.
Sometimes they may need coloured overlays, but if you’re going digital, there are settings that can help. If not they may benefit from the use of a scribe. An additional adult could support them with spelling or structure. Or they could proof read essays.
Maybe the learner struggles with spelling, then you could think about giving out a dictionary or glossary of words or phrases that could be used. You could also give the learner a word bank.
Presentation and Questioning
This can be adapted for the learner to present in their own way. If they struggle with writing, completing a presentation on a computer (e.g. PowerPoint) would be beneficial to them, because they can take advantage of the spell checker and other forms of sentence structure software. Any written criteria could be given to them online or in a PDF format, so the learner has it there and they could run it through text to speech or a talking software. You could always provide a print out of the questions that they need to be answering to make sure they can refer back and mark all the criteria off they need to.
As an assessor you should keep up to date about processes and any new developments. If you don’t know something or you don’t understand, ask. If you need to research do it. There are lots of handy guides and articles out there that discusses additional learning difficulties. If you need to learn more about dyslexia or dyspraxia, do that. It helps towards making learning inclusive and towards your CPD.
May try and keep up to date with technology, you don’t have to know everything but just enough, maybe it’s a new software that helps with grammar or spelling. When in doubt ask your learner what helps them the most. You should also consider encouraging your learners that it’s okay to ask for help. If they need something specific to help them learn then they should have it.
Also you could think about what works for your learners. You would probably know at this point what their learning style is and utilise that. Not everything is going to work for every learner, it may have to be trial and error sometimes.
We hope this has helped you gain more insight on how you can adapt methods of assessment to fit individual needs of your learners. If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to contact us by email at email@example.com.
Steve is a Chartered Manager and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.
He provides Educational Consultancy to the 19+ sector as well as being an Assessor, IQA, EPA and Digital Marketing Professional. When not doing any of these he finds time, every now and then, to write blogs and articles.