The Importance of Differentiating Exams and Lessons

Exams or tests are used for many reasons. They are used to evaluate students and discover their skills and areas of need. They are used to gauge whether or not students are gaining new knowledge from the content they are taught and they are used to help educators design and modify instruction that  meets the needs of all students. Each student is different and learns differently. Each student is also different and they all test differently. It is as important to include differentiation in testing as it is in lesson plans.

One student might be great at taking a written exam. This student is most likely a visual learner and can comprehend the information on the exam by reading it.  This particular student most likely will do excellent on the end of the class final exam as long as he has learned the content.

Then there are students who are auditory learners, they benefit most though discussions. These students look at a written exam and all they know seems to leave their mind. It is like someone steps in and temporarily numbs their brain because it freezes. They do poorly on the exam yet know as much about the content as the visual learners who excel at written test taking.

It is important for a teacher to know his or her students well enough to know if they have been grasping the content of the class throughout the year. The teacher needs to provide different types of exams throughout the year and the end of the year exam should be differentiated to meet the needs of all learners. If the teacher knows that one student has excelled in the class until the exam then it is time to find out why that student failed the exam.

If a student who appears to know the content of the exam fails the written exam the teacher must take the time to give that child the exam orally to find out if the student really knows the content or not. The same exam can be given, just in an oral form. If the student needs discussion then give the same exam through discussion.

Students who know they freeze when taking written exams have serious test anxiety too. They feel inferior and wonder why they can’t seem to pass a test. Providing them with a way to take a test and showing that they are as capable of learning as everyone else will benefit them in many positive ways.

New knowledge and growth is what teachers need to gauge in school. The fact that a student has learned from lessons in class is what is important. By giving different types of exams and differentiating exams for the different learning styles and abilities teachers take testing pressure off of students and set them up for success.

Picture by Flickr


Kim Miller

About Kim Miller

I am a single mom of two sons, 15 and 18 years old. I also have an 8 month old grandson. I recently earned my BA in Elementary Education and am working toward an MA in Elementary Education. I love working with children and watching them learn.

Kim Miller

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