Can we teachers just differentiate everything in the classroom now? Kids these days are so lucky...I wish this was a thing when I was in school because I personally suffered from test anxiety.
Differentiating assessments may be more work up front, but this practice will absolutely set up a teacher -- and the entire class -- for success. We get to know so much about our students that it begins to feel like home whenever we're all together in the classroom day after day. The bank of knowledge we teachers absorb as we get to know our students will include how best to assess each individual student. Some students assess very well on paper while others don't shine via written communication. Some students will better demonstrate their knowledge verbally or by performing a task while using the knowledge in context. An English Language Learner (ELL) needs to have a way to show what he's learned despite a language barrier. A student with learning or other disabilities must must be able to demonstrate what they learned despite any difficulties in sitting still or performing well on a written assessment.
Here is an example of how I would fully assess 30 something students with different learning styles for subject mastery on the topic of recorder playing.
Written assessment: For students who are visual and feel most comfortable testing on paper, I will provide a 25 question writing and drawing focused assessment. During this time, I can pull my ELL students who prefer a written test to a table and provide them with an assessment that includes a word bank (providing word translations from Spanish to English for example), bigger font, and multiple choice to help them decode english while demonstrating their knowledge. I don't know any of my students' reading levels since I have so many and also their teachers don't provide me with that information. Therefore, I will offer two other assessment methods that are non-written, described below.
24. What does a characteristic tone on the recorder sound like? How do you get that sound out of the instrument?
25. How do you prevent and fix squeaking sounds while playing?
Kinesthetic assessment: Allows students to show that they can play the recorder correctly and read music notes despite language barriers or learning disorders. Recorder station: My recording device will be going while students walk up one at a time, state their name, and play notes, scales, and the songs we've worked on. After school, I will listen to each class recording for the day and write down student scores as they fit within the unit rubric.
Oral assessment: Students who need more guidance and/or don't score well in either of the aforementioned assessment methods may do a one-on-one verbal assessment, recorder playing demo, and treble clef note flashcard identification with me. I've been a private music teacher for years and I can tell where my students are at in their mastery of music material instantly by watching them play and asking focused questions. This testing method will work well for children with ADHD who may not be able to focus enough to successfully complete the other two types of assessments. Students with testing and performance anxiety will also score best one-on-one with me because I know how to reassure, encourage, and put them at ease when assessing in person. Students who are ELLs, especially struggling, and/or have special needs may also test with me verbally because I can take notes on skills for more practice and suggest corresponding activities with an aide. I can also take notes to include with a possible referral for special education testing.
These types of modifications can be made for any type of assessment on any subject. This is a great way to ensure that no students slip through the cracks when it comes time to assess and grade.