Assessment and learning disabilities can be a significant challenge for educators. This wiki will focus on assessment and potential teaching
strategies for teachers of students with the learning disability ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

1. ADHD: What is it?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a learning disability in which people consistently demonstrate inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsive tendencies.

These symptoms can have dramatic effects on a student. Examples are:

  • Acting up in class
  • Disruptive behavior (such as excessive fidgeting)
  • Hindered academic achievement
  • Difficulties with social and emotional adjustment
  • Drug use
  • Withdraw from school

While classroom behavior can indicate if a student has ADHD, it can only be diagnosed by medical professionals, such as psychologist and psychiatrist. They can discover if a child has ADHD through a series of tests. At this point, some medications can be used to curtail the symptoms. Most medications are antidepressants and/or stimulants, such as Ritalin and Wellbutrin. Many of these drugs have noticeable side effects, and can on occasion actually be harmful to a student’s educational experience.

The exact cause of ADHD has yet to be determined, but one of the primary theories is that it is genetic. That is to say that it is believed that it is an inherited learning disability. It is also theorized that there is a genetic mutation that causes a reduction in areas of the brain that can lead to self control issues. Some symptoms are demonstrated early in childhood, but are difficult to diagnose until they reach elementary levels of learning.

While it may seem that ADHD prognosis is on the rise, in actuality, it is affecting a small portion of a given classrooms population. In a given class, it is likely that only one or two students will actually have ADHD. Due to the behaviors that will be likely to be demonstrated by said students, it becomes imperative that teachers in these classes have a variety of teaching strategies and assessment plans to help keep those students on task and engaged in learning.

2. Teaching Strategies

A positive learning environment is beneficial for all students to thrive in the classroom. For students with ADHD the learning environment is especially vital for these students to succeed. Strategies to foster a positive learning environment include:
  • Provide a classroom with few distractions when possible
  • Use shorter lessons to maintain the focus of the students
  • Cohesion of the lesson is important for keeping the student concentrated. Avoid side discussion and tangents if possible
  • Reflection is a beneficial tool to gauge the understanding of the student
  • Understanding of lesson content can be enhanced using peer partnering, outlining, vocabulary building and the use of a phonic-linguistic approach
  • Have students work in pairs or small groups versus large groups to maintain focus
  • Have lessons include visual and auditory aspects
  • Use spatial strategies
    • Examples may include graphic organizers or graph paper to help with number alignment of math problems
  • Use tactile or kinaesthetic tasks to keep students engaged
    • Examples may include chair push-ups, having Velcro underneath their desk or having resistance bands on their chair legs
  • Structure, routine and consistency must be present in order for student success
  • Provide examples and models
  • Encourage students to underline words, draw pictures and reread problems to further understand the task at hand
  • Include technology within lessons to keep students engaged
  • Use mnemonics to solidify their understanding
  • Provide extra copies of useful resources for students to take home or make them available online
    • Examples may include multiplication tables, spelling lists or maps

3. Assessment

3.1 Error Analysis

This is to determine student what areas students are competent in and with which they may be struggling. Error analysis can be done by the student themselves as well.

Examples of general errors that may occur include:
  • misreading directions


  • mistakes related to details
  • not understanding concepts and/or difficulty applying them
  • test taking issues such as anxiety
  • difficulty studying

Errors relating to reading may include:
  • meaningful substitutions
  • skipping words or whole lines of text

Errors in math may include:
  • poor recall of facts
  • not understanding a concept
  • forgetting part of a procedure

3.2 Performance Assessment

Performance assessment can be used to help students to better understand the task. Through performance assessment it is important to provide specific critical in order for students to set successful performance goals. Step-by-step instruction can be provided using examples, models, and outlines of clear expectations. Involve students in the assessment and evaluation process and be sure to be specific with feedback. Feedback should also be prompt in order for students to be able to set new goals.

3.3 Test Formats and Procedures

Test formats and procedures should allow students to best demonstrate their knowledge. Tests must be catered to meet the needs of the student. For example multiple choice tests may be problematic therefore it would be beneficial to consider alternative types of formats such as short answer or fill-in-the-blank.

  • ensure test format is uncluttered and has adequate white space on the page
  • students may benefit from a shortened version of a test or tests that are broken down in to smaller parts that may be written over several different sessions
  • a distraction free environment is vital
  • more time may be beneficial
  • brief breaks with an opportunity to move around is advantageous during long tests
  • explore the benefits of a student using a word processor
  • if needed allow the individual to complete tests orally

3.4 Learning Portfolios

Learning portfolios can be a way to assess students’ progress or behavior over time. These can be valuable resources for both teachers and parents to help support the students throughout the learning process.

3.5 Involve Students

By involving students in the assessment process it encourages them to be responsible for their own learning and promotes self-advocacy. Students become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses which allow them to be more successful.

  • involve students in developing assessment rubrics
  • involve students in goal setting, self-assessment, and reflection (e.g. learning logs, goal sheets, and self-assessment rubrics)
  • set-up regular check-in times for students to chat about how things are going

4. References

Andries, D. (2006, August 30). Learning Math for the ADHD Child. In ADD/ADHD@Suite 101. Retrieved September 26, 2012, from

Bussing, R. (2008, August 19). What Causes Attention Deficit Disorders?. In Everyday Health. Retrieved September 26, 2012, from

Price, A., Crawford, S., Tottle, J., Maunula, S., Biasotto, M., Cole, M., & Jarvey, M. (2006). Focusing on Success: Teaching Students with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, grades 1-12 (pp. 88-92). Edmonton, Canada: Alberta Education.

Rodriguez, D. (n.d.). Medications to Treat ADHD. In Everyday Health. Retrieved July 18, 2011, from

Santrock, J. W., Woloshyn, V. E., Gallagher, T. L., Di Petta, T., & Marini, Z. A. (2010). Education Psychology (3rd ed., pp. 173-177). N.

Teacher Student. (2011, January). In CentrePAD. Retrieved October 1, 2012, from

5. Supplementary Resources

Parker, H. C. (2005). The ADHD Handbook for Schools. Plantation, FL: Specialty Press Inc.

Parker, H. C. (2000). Problem Solver Guide for Students with ADHD. Plantation, FL: Specialty Press Inc.

Shaprio, L. E. (1995). Forms for Helping the ADHD Child. Plainview, NY: Childswork/Childsplay.

Zentall, S. S. (2006). ADHD and Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.