Guideline 7: Provide options for recruiting interest for promoting and maintaining engagement.

Information that is not attended to, that does not engage a student's cognition, is in fact inaccessible, is particularly challenging in assessment. If information is inaccessible both in the moment—relevant information goes unnoticed and unprocessed—and in the future—relevant information is unlikely to be remembered. As a result, teachers devote considerable time and effort to recruiting student attention and engagement . Students differ significantly in what attracts their attention and engages their interest across assessment and instructional setting. The same student will be engaged differently over time and circumstance; interests change as they develop and gain new knowledge and skills, as their biological environments change, and as they differentiate into self-determined adolescents and adults. It is therefore important, especially in an assessment situation to have alternative means of recruiting student interest, means that reflect the important inter- and intra-individual differences among students.

7.1 Options that increase individual choice and autonomy

One of the most successful ways to recruit students' interest is by giving them choices and opportunities for personal control. In assessment and instructional settings, it is often inappropriate to provide choice of the learning objective itself. Offering students choices can develop self-determination and pride in accomplishment, and increase the degree to which students feel connected to their learning. It is important to note, however, that providing choices is an important option, not a fixed feature. Some assessment items that may not lend themselves well to providing choice.

7.2 Options that enhance relevance, value, and authenticity

Individuals are engaged by information and activities that are relevant and valuable to their authentic interests and goals. Conversely, individuals are rarely interested in information and activities that have no relevance or value. In an assessment setting, one of the most important ways that teachers recruit interest is to highlight the utility and the relevance of tasks to demonstrate that relevance through authentic, meaningful activities and tasks. It is a mistake, of course, to assume that all students will find the same activities or information equally relevant or valuable. To recruit all students, it is critical to have options in the kinds of activities, topics, and tasks in assessment and/or activities.

7.3 Provide alternatives to negative or disengaging consequences and/or contexts

Students differ considerably in their responses to stimuli and to events in their environment. The same novel event in a classroom can be exciting and interesting to one individual but ominous and frightening to another. Similarly, for some students, reducing potential distractions is of great benefit to sustaining effort and concentration. For others, the presence of “distracters” in the environment may actually have beneficial effects: they study better in a noisy environment than in a quiet one. Differences in the effects of novelty, change, stimulation, complexity, and touch are just a few examples of stable differences among individuals that have both physiological and environmental roots. The optimal environment offers options that, in the aggregate, reduce threats and negative distractions.

Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports is a program generally used for school wide and class wide interventions, although the principles apply to individuals as well. Resources on "Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports" for teachers and administrators available on this informational website - http://www.pbis.org/school/what_is_swpbs.aspx

Image of student at interactive whiteboard with picture of a caterpillar with numbered sections. Student has choice of numbers to place into the caterpillar.

Student standing at an interactive white board selects the number 3 as the next number in sequence from 1-10.

Resources on "Sensory Processing Disorder: Tips for Teachers" - see this informational website for teachers: http://www.spdbayarea.org/SPD_tips_for_teachers.htm