Measuring student growth is an important element of homeschooling. It tells you if your student is actually learning and absorbing what is being taught. It’s also a difficult task for many parents because they’re not sure how to go about doing it. If you’re in that category don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many parents struggle with evaluating their student’s progress.

What’s most important about measuring learning effectiveness, is knowing the right questions to ask yourself — and having the answers to those questions. The following information will provide you with both and also impart valuable advice on how you might improve your child’s learning experience through proper evaluation.

Questions to Ask

As you develop ways to measure student growth, be sure to ask yourself these valuable questions:

Did my student reach the desired learning target?

Learning targets are short-term goals usually written as an “I can” statement. Before you create a learning target, you should be certain that you clearly state what you expect your students to know. For example: “I can identify the five characteristics that all fish have in common.“ If you do that, your students will be able to reflect on the target and ask the appropriate questions. As a result, they’ll have a better chance of reaching the desired target.

What is my student’s depth of knowledge on each subject?

Depth of knowledge (DOK) refers to the level of understanding required to answer a question or perform an activity. DOK is usually used to evaluate student learning by giving your students a series of increasingly difficult tasks or lessons that reveal what level of knowledge your student has achieved between levels 1 through 4.

  • Level 1: The memorization of facts, concepts, information, and procedures. It is the foundation.
  • Level 2: The limited use of skills, concepts and information to solve multi-step problems.
  • Level 3: The ability to use logic and problem-solving strategies, as well as skills from various subject areas to create solutions to a problem.
  • Level 4: The ability to solve complex and original problems that don’t have predictable results. For example, inventing a new product or concept to make life easier.

How can I improve my student’s engagement so they can reach their learning goals?

Many experts believe that there are a variety of methods teachers can use to improve engagement. These methods also make measuring student growth easier. They include:

  • Make certain that the material you are teaching matches your students learning abilities. If the lessons are too difficult, they will be less engaged.
  • Have your students share their thoughts, ideas and viewpoints on the subject.
  • Incorporate technology into the classroom. This gives students the opportunity to interact with a device and learn at their own pace.
  • Use real-life examples and problems and allow students to invent their own solutions and conclusions.
  • Give students the opportunity to choose their own topics and lessons.
  • Make learning fun by including games and contests. Students can pair up or choose teams and collaborate in friendly competitions.
  • Introduce external classroom elements such as field trips, guest speakers, and trips to the library.

Can my student apply what they’ve learned to a new situation or different context?

Students sometimes master individual skills but then can’t apply that skill to a new situation, which experts call “transfer of knowledge.” If that’s the case with your student, start providing simple tasks when you’re teaching and then expand those tasks to include more difficult concepts. Combine ideas from different sources and use various techniques, such as multimedia and open discussion, when introducing new situations. This will make it easier when you’re measuring learning effectiveness. It also encourages long-term learning.

Does my student have sufficient background knowledge or academic skills to move onto the next topic?

If you suspect that your students don’t have the proper background knowledge to proceed to new topics, start assessing them on a daily or weekly basis. Many homeschoolers prefer informal assessments rather than tests, which are formal assessments and don’t always evaluate student learning accurately. Informal assessments include:

  • Exit slips: At the end of each day or week write out questions on a board or on index cards and have your students answer them. Questions such as: What are three things you learned from your lessons today? What didn’t you understand? Or, what questions do you have about the lessons?
  • Journals: At the end of each day, give your children five minutes to write out what they learned or what they think you could be doing to help them learn more efficiently.
  • Oral presentations: Give your children a few minutes to explain what they learned each day. You could also pose pertinent questions and have them answer them.
  • Self evaluation: Give your students time to express how they feel about the topic and if they really understand it.

Does my teaching style still match my child’s learning style and does it matter? 

There are a variety of learning styles such as visual, auditory, physical, and logical among others. Many homeschoolers identify their children’s learning style and then match their teaching style accordingly. But now, some experts believe that children benefit from receiving information in a variety of ways or modalities.

Dr. Anthony Petrosino, a UT Austin Professor and co-founder of the UTeach Program, believes, “It’s probably best to have your child learn through multiple modalities,” Petrosino says. “We learn through all our senses; the more of these used, the better our comprehension, recall and retrieval will be.” Many homeschoolers already engage their children with a mixed curriculum, using books/worksheets, online programs and physical activities. This gives you the freedom to customize each subject to your child’s strengths and makes measuring student growth more effective.

How often am I assessing my student? 

Measuring student learning outcomes varies for each homeschooler. Some parents assess their students on a daily or weekly basis using the tools we mentioned above such as “exit slips”. Other parents assess their students according to their state’s homeschooling laws. It really depends on your student and if they’re having difficulty with a subject or lesson. If they are, assessing them on a daily basis will give you a better understanding of their learning comprehension.

Am I sharing my assessment results with my student and showing them how they are helping with obtaining our goals?

You should definitely share assessment results with your students. It gives them the proper perspective regarding their learning progression — especially as they grow older. This should be a positive experience: If you use rubrics (a list of requirements with an assigned score for each item), for measuring learning, point out the positive scores. You should also be prepared to communicate the strategies, tools and perhaps new resources for improving the problem areas. Ideally, sharing assessments with your students shows them that their hardwork has paid off and they are meeting their goals.

Am I using multiple assessment formats to help my students achieve positive results? 

Using multiple assessment strategies improves your child’s chances of achieving positive results. It makes sense: Some children prefer written tests while others thrive when taking oral exams. Use these formats when assessing your children:

  • Socratic seminar: Students ask open-ended questions regarding an assignment or lesson and formulate their own answers using critical thinking while also remarking on the answers of their fellow students. If you have a single child, you can take part in the seminar.
  • One question quiz: Ask a focused question with a specific goal. Give your childrens a minute or two to answer.
  • Reflection: At the end of their lessons, ask students to reflect on what they learned. This could be oral or a written reflection.
  • Short quizzes: Give a four or five question quiz to check for comprehension.
  • Summarize: Ask your students to summarize the lesson by providing key points and elements they studied.
  • 3-2-1: Students review what they’ve learned by providing: #3: things they learned from your lesson; #2: things they want to know more about; and #1: questions they have.

Measuring student learning is essential when homeschooling. The information provides you with an accurate analysis of your students’ learning progress and allows you to make adjustments as you go along.

Your children will also clearly understand, through your guidance, what they need to improve upon, how they can improve, and the strategies that will be used. This will boost their confidence and make your homeschooling experience much more gratifying.

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