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by Anne Bayetto, Lecturer, Flinders University
Students bring a range of backgrounds into a class so teachers use a range of assessment processes to gather evidence and data about all of their students. Not only will teachers use published tests and checklists but they will also observe students as they go about their learning, make records using teacher developed checklists, speak with previous teachers and talk with families.
For some parents it may come as a surprise when a teacher asks to speak with them about their child's learning difficulties. It could be that their child has not previously had problems at school but with increased curriculum expectations their child is struggling to acquire content knowledge and learning strategies necessary as foundation skills for new learning.
If there are students who present with learning difficulties, class teachers will more thoroughly probe to investigate students' lack of knowledge, skills and understandings. Once they have analysed assessment information, teachers can then more specifically target their teaching to address students' learning needs.
On occasions, teachers may seek advice from colleagues and the leadership team at their school if some students present with more complex learning needs than they have previously experienced. Additionally, they make seek advice from support personnel who work in their education system.
If students still appear to have more complex learning needs, class teachers may suggest that parents consider having their child assessed by a special education teacher at the school.
Another option is to refer their child to an educational psychologist for a full psychological assessment. Parents of children in the state school system will be asked to sign a form to allow assessment by a Guidance Officer (educational psychologist) who is allocated to their school. Parents of children attending Catholic or Independent Schools may be recommended to take their child to a private educational psychologist.
If a student is assessed by an educational psychologist, a written report will be provided with recommendations for helping the child at home and at school.
Recommendations for teachers often provide a best case scenario about desirable levels of support to hasten a student's learning. School leadership and teachers will read the report and consider what is possible both resource and time wise to support the student's learning. It is likely that some recommendations can be incorporated into the teacher's current learning program while others will require some reflection about possible ways forward.
Class teachers regularly assess students' learning abilities and this information is shared at parent interviews. With classes of around 30 students (and in secondary school around 120 students), teachers have many students to consider and plan for. Parents are advised to make a specific time to speak with their child's teacher about any learning concerns.
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