What do schools mean when they say students should be held accountable? Unfortunately, if we’re not careful, “accountability” can sometimes be a euphemism for a one-size-fits-all, standardized education that works on average, but not for many students for many reasons. To achieve a more inclusive version of accountability, educators may need to sharpen their own executive function skills.
The Limits of Accountability
Holding students “accountable” can sometimes be code for testing and grading and punishing with no exceptions. “Accountability” may not account for the diversity of students’ strengths and weaknesses.
As a parent of a neurodivergent student, it seems that “accountability” may lead to exclusion. The notion that all students think and learn the same way is marginalizing for quite a few students. What’s insidious is when the limitations of testing are disregarded.
Flexibility & Self-Checking
Luckily, by sharpening their own executive function skills, educators can implement a better version of accountability. Two executive function processes are particularly relevant:
- Cognitive flexibility allows for a variety of perspectives and incorporation of new information. Teachers can think flexibly about accountability by considering various methods to test different students’ skills and knowledge. Cognitive flexibility is at the heart of effectively differentiating curricula and offering tools to best support each student. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is also critical; educators must be flexible and offer students multiple means of engagement, representation, and action & expression.
- Self-checking is used to find, fix, and learn from mistakes in our own work. When it comes to testing and grading, educators can hold themselves accountable by practicing and modeling self-checking. If you are interested in more information about self-checking, you can access Top 3 Hits, a free SMARTS lesson on self-checking.
“Accountability” is inextricably linked to tests and grades, with the best of intentions, euphemistically to “hold students to a higher standard.” The idea is to give everyone an equal chance at education. Unfortunately, equal is not equitable; let’s all model cognitive flexibility in these trying times.
- Parent of LD High School Student
SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org
Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org
The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org