Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Understanding Cognitive Skills Testing: What Is It? Why Have It Admin? & Where To Find It?"

We can now all move forward to new learning and achievement heights, providing we understand how our own information processing works. Our reluctance to be the very best we can be, can now be left behind us. My work is based upon the premise that “intelligence” is trainable, and that skills, like reading, writing, mathematics and problem solving are dependent on cognitive information processing basic blocks called “primitives.”

Why understand what these blocks are? Because all work proficiency, including academic achievement, depends upon how our “mind works” operate. The renowned psychologist, J. P. Guilford, identified 150 cognitive skills cubes, called the Structure of Intellect theory (SOI), which has been used as a foundation and measurement of general intelligence for decades. See footnote.

Why should we care? Because our future endeavors, how we cope with everyday life and our achievements/life styles will depend upon our information processing capabilities. It will become our lifetime path we lead, and how contented we will be with what we end up doing as a livelihood.

How do we find out what capabilities we have? It is through standardized cognitive skills testing and evaluations can show information processing strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

Why is testing and evaluation not routinely prescribed? Why do we not know about it? It is because testing can only be administered by highly trained, state certified, professionals at the masters/doctoral degreed levels. These people include psychologists, school psychologists, and learning disability specialists. Testing companies will not sell testing materials to anyone other than these highly qualified and trained professionals, who are trained to do measurement and evaluations.

Subsequently, the testing requires trained expertise, money, and takes time. One set of cognitive skills tests usually runs from $2,500. - $3,000. Therefore, parents often go to physicians or psychiatrists who can prescribe medication to calm the learner, which may appear to be a quick, inexpensive solution. Yet, this intervention is not low-cost, and can run $100. a month or more depending upon insurance coverage. And, prescribed medication can become habit-forming.

There is little, if any, scientific knowledge, summarizing the life-long effects of any kind of stimulant medication on the brain and body that is used to increase focus and concentration needed for learning new material.

Cognitive skills training and cognitive skills assessment has been available for some time. In 1975, Guilford's student, Dr. Mary Meeker, formed the "Structure of Intellect" (SOI) Institute and trained educators how to measure cognitive skills according to task. She and her husband, Robert, designed tests and materials. The SOI Institute exists today with clinicians in every state that have been trained at their "Advanced Level" out of four levels of experienced practice and training. The program has focused on reading, math, and learning problems, early childhood weaknesses, Gifted instruction with remediating missing blocks, and career counseling.

Yet, cognitive skills measurement and standardized testing has not been mainstreamed for the average, yet ambitious person, due to training, time, and cost constraints. Generally speaking, individuals needing remediation were tested either privately, in schools, clinics, or within learning institutions.

Subsequently, many who who were fortunate enough to obtain low-cost assessments and training, or at no cost through their school, later felt embarrassed that they might be considered as "inadequate or a slow learner." Yet, they could subsequently experience giant steps forward in perceiving and learning new information faster and reaching greater career heights. Now, this sense of "being singled out as imperfect or having a problem " is no longer the case, as we move forward with a new dimension of identifying learning strengths and weaknesses to create the high performing, confident individual. We must all excel. Tomorrow's world is demanding it of us.

How can I get started with solid, eye-opening measurement of my own or my children’s cognitive skills if it is expensive and time consuming? Is this beneficial, and worth the time and trouble?

Soon there will be available online options that will offer access to finding the right professional in your area, who will now charge less for solid evaluations. And, the online options will give you the information you need and want, and point you in the right direction for not only testing, measurement and evaluations, but for instructional, learning solutions.

My dream is that most of us will want optimum mental fitness in the future for our children and ourselves the same way we want physical fitness and personal well-being. It will be our choice to move forward to higher levels. We can be competitive in the new, global world.

Footnote: Guilford, J.P. (1967). The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. In Guilford's Structure of Intellect (SOI) theory, intelligence is viewed as comprising operations, contents, and products. There are 5 kinds of operations (cognition, memory, divergent production, convergent production, evaluation), 6 kinds of products (units, classes, relations, systems, transformations, and implications), and 5 kinds of contents (visual, auditory, symbolic, semantic, behavioral). Since each of these dimensions is independent, there are theoretically 150 different components of intelligence.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Improving Learning Acquisition in the Classroom

Classrooms today are challenging for even the most experienced teacher, let alone new ones who are entering the field. Today’s classrooms are known for their diversification of students’ ability and knowledge base levels, which leads to a broad range of learning pace. This is on top of gender, economic, parental support, disabilities, advanced learners, and motivational differences.

To cope with this dilemma, the Response to Intervention (RTI) Model set three-tier assessment guidelines, including early individual and classroom-group screenings to detect behavioral and learning problems. These assessments are directed to helping each child learn and become a success in school. Many children fear failure in front of others. The slow or disabled learner then loses confidence and motivation to learn, and can become a behavior problem.

The differentiated classroom is a curriculum infrastructure model to add fluidity to instructing multiple ability ranges. Imagine what the teacher has to contend with trying to teach diverse student learners, many of them behavior problems.

Would’t be wonderful if most students learned and worked as one unit at similar paces, and broad cognitive ability ranges remained few to each classroom? There is a solution: this philosophy requires accelerating information processing with accentuated visual and listening memories for each and every child.

To begin, there must be group screenings tests to determine the pre-classroom student memory levels. Although this requires additional teacher involvement, it is worth the effort by knowing your student profiles. Then you can move forward to improve learning capacities and speed or pace of learning. Every student moves forward so they can then understand typical group instruction.

Step 1: Parents request a referral for school testing for their child. Schools are typically backed-up with multiple requests, but there are also private resources through psychologists and private practitioners qualified to assess. According to the IDEA (2004) mandate, if schools to not assess your child, they must pay for private testing. There are many cognitive skills tests that measure visual and auditory processing speed. Professionally trained diagnosticians must administer them. In schools, it is the certified, assessment team. Classroom screening procedures with simple checklists also are available for teachers to determine these ranges.

Step 2: Find a solution. There are many RTI products on the market. Find one with scientific, longitudinal findings. Although my product, The Bridge to Achievement, (BTA), is still in the BETA stage, it is a student-adult ability-charger. The 5-generational, scientifically documented e-Learning program includes five 1-3 year longitudinal studies with individuals, school students, and adults in business and college settings.

The program automates student pacing levels in the classroom or at home. It is taught by puppets as models, which increase student motivation, and removes the fear of making mistakes while learning. Students improve their information processing levels in a short period of time.

When students have improved their learning and pacing levels, instruction in the classroom becomes easier for the teacher. Teachers are relieved, as their teaching day becomes easier with an integrated classroom. Children and their parents become satisfied as they see their child transformed into active, happy learners.

I have a new research report, now in publication review process, showing the multi-tiered effects of my 29-years of Accelerated Learning research with various populations, ages 9 to adult. All but one experiment had one-to-three years post longitudinal tracking showing that my choral speaking with puppetry methods maintained. It is unique research that you will want to follow.

My dream is that most of us will want mental fitness in the future the same way we want physical fitness. It will be that easy to move forward to higher levels. We won't have to be left behind.