What Is An Educational Cognitive Assessment?

What Is An Educational Cognitive Assessment

Takeaway: An educational cognitive assessment is a research-backed testing to help understand your child’s learning profile. It measures verbal comprehension, visual-spatial skills, and thinking skills  so that we can nurture her strengths and support her weaknesses.   

Children today have such a radically different world to navigate. And this means creating new ways to track their progress.

Childhood nowadays is so different from just a few decades ago. For instance, schools have changed significantly – from what we teach to how we teach it (blackboards vs laptops), how we evaluate the teaching, and even how classrooms are laid out (assigned desks vs flexible learning spaces). Similarly, ‘play’ usually signifies computer time rather than outdoor games and physical activity. All this change means we have to create new ways of tracking children’s progress in a rapidly-changing world.

This progress-tracking is essential to maximising a child’s potential.

Even the brightest students need help nurturing their strengths and working on their weaknesses. And this targeted teaching is possible only if we first track and evaluate a child’s progress. It’s like building a house, where it needs scaffolding for support early on. The better the initial scaffolding, the sturdier the finished house.

Here’s where an educational cognitive assessment can help. It’s a way of creating a child’s ‘learning profile.’

A child’s learning profile is a snapshot of how she approaches challenges, solves problems, reacts to feedback (criticism and praise), and adapts to change. The more detailed the profile, the better we can understand and predict her current capabilities and the type of scaffolding she’ll need. Specifically, the assessment will help parents, teachers, and other learning specialists develop her academic skills like reading, writing, maths, etc.

Learning profiles are complex and nuanced, so there’s a lot to identify and measure.

A cognitive assessment looks at various factors such as behaviour, motivation, concentration, memory, and attitude. The six broad categories of assessment include

1. Verbal comprehension: Communication via speech and writing.

Verbal comprehension (i.e., language skills) depends on things like vocabulary, reading/writing skills, and auditory working memory. And it affects how children express themselves, understand instructions, and get along with others. That’s what makes it so important because fitting into a supportive community means understanding others’ needs and expressing our own.

2. Visual-spatial skills: Engaging with the physical world.

Visual-spatial skills affect how children handle the physical world around them. For instance, they influence how children build papier-mache models, solve visual puzzles, space out letters on a page when writing, interpret maths diagrams, and navigate obstacles on the playground.

3. Flexible thinking: Adapting to new demands and problems.

Life is a continually-changing puzzle, which means being able to adapt to new problems. This involves recognising new challenges, untangling their underlying themes, and working with these themes to fix situations. For example, it takes flexible thinking to learn how to ride a cycle one moment and switch to solving a maths problem the next. They’re both puzzles to solve, but with entirely different puzzle pieces.

4. Working memory: Dealing with freshly-learned information.

Our brains have a set of mental processes called ‘executive functions,’ and working memory is one of them. It controls how a child pays attention to things, takes in bits of information, and uses them to solve problems. It’s like a computer’s RAM. The better a child’s working memory (i.e., the better her raw computing power), the easier it is to follow complicated instructions, solve maths problems, understand class lectures, or remember (and use) the phone number a friend just mentioned. Learn more about working memory.

5. Processing speed: Quickly interpreting new data.

Processing speed refers to how quickly a child can process new information. For instance, it’s how quickly she can skim an answer sheet to respond to her teacher’s question. Or how fast she can recognise and note the key points of a lesson. Or how efficiently she spots and reorients a new Tetris block as it falls towards the remaining puzzle pieces.

6. IQ: The traditional measure of intelligence.

An intelligent quotient (IQ) test quantifies many of the things we’ve discussed. Things like language skills, processing speed, maths ability, reasoning power, and more. However, intelligence can’t always be quantified, so IQ tests are only a rough measure of a child’s abilities. She’ll have potential way beyond anything the test can predict.

Educational cognitive assessments are powerful because they’re research-backed and use standardised tools.

Cognitive assessments are rooted in proven psychological theories, so the tests are sequenced very intentionally. For instance, if a child comes in with reading difficulties, we first have to determine which of her reading-related brain processes are affected – e.g., phonological processes, working memory, rapid naming, etc. The Educational Psychologist uses tests that have been standardised in hundreds of preliminary studies. Finally, they examine and analyse the results, present the scores in a report and devise strategies to maximise learning and development as early as possible.

So, there’s a complex interplay between psychological theory, tests, observations, and the support plans we develop.

We can’t jump to conclusions because we’re working with multiple factors that can each cause the same effect through different means. For instance, an easily-distractable child might have ADHD, or she might just find classroom learning boring. So we need to understand the real issue, or the support plan won’t work. Similarly, just because a test shows a child functions at the expected level, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an underlying problem to explore. It could simply mean that she’s figured out a way to compensate for her weaknesses. And our assessments need to pick up on this, too.

That’s why it’s worth setting up Educational Cognitive assessments for your child to understand her learning style.

A cognitive assessment can sign post learning differences, autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, intellectual giftedness, and more. And these diagnoses can help us design a support plan to make your child’s day-to-day challenges more manageable. At The Ed Psych Practice, we offer face-to-face and online assessments, consultation, advice, and problem-solving strategies for parents, nurseries, schools, and universities in London. We have psychologists, paediatricians, and therapists who can help assess your child and offer guidance and support. To consult with us or set up an appointment:

Want to see how else you can help your child? You might enjoy some of our other posts.

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