Examples Of Brain-Based Assessment

Ideally, assessments correspond to teaching that promotes creativity, analysis, judgment, expert thinking, and complex communication.

Tips And Examples For Brain-Based Assessment In The Classroom

contributed by Judy Willis

Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” 

Without imagination and investigation of ideas, our collective fund of knowledge would languish. We do need assessments to determine what students learn and understand. Still, we can incorporate imagination in creating those assessments to ensure that students’ creative thoughts and higher executive functions are incorporated into their assessment experiences. 

Traditional and especially standardized tests assess only a few parameters such as rote memory, ability to follow instructions, organization, and time management. Testing emphasizing those parameters gives students the message that those are the primary qualities of thinking inside the box that are valued most. 

As functional neuroimaging has delved more into learning research, evidence about which brain activities are most associated with information processing and memory retention is mounting. Strategies to increase successful learning can be incorporated into the assessment process such that these go beyond passive reflections of student memory and recall and become active learning experiences that stimulate dendrite growth, neurotransmitter release, and efficiency of neuronal network communication.

Strategies to increase successful learning can be incorporated into the assessment process such that these go beyond passive reflections of student memory and recall and become active learning experiences that stimulate dendrite growth, neurotransmitter release, and efficiency of neuronal network communication. 


For dynamic educators, creative problem-solving and critical analysis can be given the value they merit by being part of student assessment. The National Council of Teachers of English position paper “On Testing” stated, “In light of continued and increasing efforts to undermine progress the profession has made toward authentic assessment of students’ real and vital engagement with language and literature, NCTE needs to reassert its repeated opposition to over-simplified and narrowly conceived tests of isolated skills and decontextualized knowledge. 

“The crux of this concern has been the tension between the breadth of the English language arts curriculum and the restrictive influence of standardized means of assessing student learning.” 

Assessment Over Time-From Macro to Micro Yearlong Assessment

Although assessments ideally take place during each class period and lesson, planning the year’s major unit assessments while planning the curriculum builds authenticity into those assessments.

Starting the year with clear communication to students about the goals of their studies and expectations for their assessments sets a pattern that gives them the security that accompanies predictability. 

Strategize from the Start 

Gauge students’ assumptions about their expectations and how they will be assessed. This can be an open-ended discussion, including their opinions about the purpose of assessments. 

When teacher expectations are accompanied by a sincere acknowledgment that all students will be allowed to succeed, regardless of what test scores and grades are in their records, they are inspired with self-confidence and lower anxiety. 

When teachers help students feel safe and in control of their potential for success, they reduce affective filters and test anxiety that may have lowered test performance in previous years. 

To ensure all students know teacher expectations, provide samples of A, B, C, and D student work from past years in a binder. The samples need to relate to assignments similar in character to theirs but not be the same specific topics. In that way, the students can emulate quality and creativity, not content. 

Rubrics are powerful tools for promoting successful performance and predictable assessment. 

Spotting Errors in Comprehension With Daily Individual Assessments

This is where micro assessments and ongoing accountability are important for accurate student learning. 

Experienced teachers usually have some idea of what their students’ grade ranges (and, more importantly, their subject comprehension) are after the first several weeks of school. This is not because they frequently check their grade books, but because they assess student understanding during each lesson – sometimes more than once. 

There is a fine line between the stress of calling on students when confused or uncomfortable speaking in front of the whole class and the need to assess each student’s engagement and comprehension frequently. Students also need to feel comfortable asking for clarification so misinformation does not become stored in long-term memory. 

Emphasize–And Reward–Creativity

Children who have lower academic expectations for themselves tend to ask for help less often. When you emphasize goals of individual self-improvement, effort, creative problem-solving, and risk-taking rather than competitive comparisons of student ability, students become more engaged and less threatened about participating. 

When students focus on improving rather than comparing themselves to others, they are more comfortable asking for help. Embedding ongoing assessment into everyday curriculum can be done by incorporating performance tasks into learning activities.

And if you really want to emphasize creativity, reward it. Feedback Loops!

Ways to keep students engaged, incorporate learning activities into assessments, and assure correct understanding while doing ongoing assessments include:

-Students are given cards with questions when they enter the classroom. The answers to their cards’ questions are posted on answer cards that label the seats or tables where they will sit that day. For example, the card might say, “What state is the northern border of Oregon?” The student will search for the seat or table labeled “Washington.” 

-Students simultaneously, at the count of three, hold up the colored or white side of an index card when the class is asked a yes/no or true/false question to signal their opinions. 

-Students have whiteboards, erasable markers, and cloths (this is often a treat for students). They write answers in a few large words or numbers in response to questions and hold them up simultaneously after being given adequate time for all to write answers. This gives instant teacher feedback on who needs further explanation and keeps students engaged. 

-When students work independently or in small groups, teachers can move around the classroom listening to student discussions and assess what part of the material needs further explanation. 

Rather than have students store incorrect information, stop worksheets or math problems done in class periodically and check posted answers (after they first show you the paper so you see that they did the work). If students know that they will be credited for correcting errors and for trying the work, they can mark their errors in a different color and later show that they made corrections in a different color. 

Multiple answers

This assessment may ask several students for answers to the same question, even if the first student’s answer was correct. Similarly, once an answer is given, students can raise their hands if they agree or disagree. 


Summarizing is a valuable memory booster to assess the day’s learning.

Students write down what they think was the main point or concept of the lesson on note cards. 

The next day, the best cards are returned to the students who wrote them, and they read them aloud (for class review) and post them on a bulletin board.

Students who did not receive their note cards will understand that they may have missed part of the critical point. Their job is to rewrite notes in their notebooks or journals after listening to classmates read the best ones aloud.

Suppose most of the students’ note card summaries are incorrect. In that case, it is teacher feedback that the lesson may not have been as clearly communicated as intended and should be retaught in another way to reach the objectives. 

When assessments are incorporated into daily instruction, they become positive and corrective feedback opportunities and can keep all students engaged. The addition of metacognition and post-assessment conferences will give students additional strategies to achieve success on standardized tests, and, more importantly, in their academic potential and positive educational experiences. 


The best assessments will also prepare students for success in the careers where their generation will find opportunities. These assessments are the ones that correspond to teaching that promotes creativity, analysis, judgment, expert thinking, and complex communication.