On Jul 21, 2020
As school systems work through their plans for the return to school, whether back-to-the-classroom, remote or e-learning, or a blend, every ounce of information we have about student performance is critically important. Using measures of student ability in combination with measures of student achievement is especially helpful right now. In addition to understanding where students are academically, we need to better understand how student ability fits into the equation as we strive to help students grow and learn and, in many cases, to help them catch up after a disrupted spring semester. The Cognitive Abilities Test™ (CogAT®) is an important tool for understanding each student’s capacity to learn and their areas of strength and opportunity to target instruction appropriately for the best gains in achievement. For instance, students demonstrating high ability can benefit from an accelerated pace to make up deficits due to this year’s school interruptions. Those students with lower ability will need more help and well-targeted instruction to reach grade-level expectations in the coming year.
Student ability is closely linked to success in school, but ability continues to develop whether or not students are engaged in formal schooling. CogAT can be paired with achievement data to highlight opportunities for student growth and learning. Contrasting students’ ability and achievement scores helps teachers to recognize those students who may be capable of much more than their current achievement indicates. One simple comparison can be made using stanines. As shown below, stanines are 9 partitions which rank normative scores from the lowest performance in Stanine 1 to the highest performance in Stanine 9. Students whose achievement scores are three or more stanines lower than their ability scores may be able to make much quicker gains through targeted instruction.
When large differences are found between measures of ability and achievement, the student may benefit greatly from targeted learning strategies – or, differentiated instruction. If achievement is lower relative to ability, is there an obvious issue that could impair achievement such as a learning disability? Or, has the student had equal access to and opportunity for learning in the past? Is the student an English language learner? Is motivation a challenge for this student? For those students whose achievement is higher relative to ability, does the student need help to acquire strategies for novel problem solving and autonomous learning?
CogAT produces the unique Ability Profile Score, which offers a concise summary of student ability overall and relative strengths and weaknesses across reasoning domains including linguistic/semantic (Verbal), numeric (Quantitative), and figural (Nonverbal). Teachers can leverage each student’s Ability Profile score to identify appropriate learning strategies for remote learning and to reintegrate them into the classroom. For instance, highly-able students are generally more capable independent learners and require less guidance for remote learning. Lower ability students will require more scaffolding and explicit coaching in skill building. Each student’s pattern of strength and weakness offers a window into specific tactics to allow them to build from areas of strength. Enter the student’s Ability Profile into CogAT.com for instructional suggestions.
Additionally, Ability Profiles are a mechanism for grouping students effectively. Depending on the learning situation, students of comparable abilities may be grouped together to follow a similar instructional path. Students with different profiles may be grouped to complement one another’s strengths and support access to learning. Students who share strengths – or weaknesses – will benefit from similar instructional strategies. An overview of Ability Profiles can be found here and in this issue of Cognitively Speaking. Additionally, CogAT author Dr. Joni Lakin has recorded a webinar and written a blog post addressing the use of ability measures for classroom differentiation including simple schemes for grouping students using CogAT Ability Profiles.
As greater flexibility will be called for as school resumes this year, CogAT provides an essential window into how to structure learning to make the greatest impact in differentiating instruction for students with similar and different backgrounds, experiences, and abilities.