Lohman's Legacy: The CogAT - Assessing How Students Learn Best

by College of Education | May 03, 2013
David Lohman teaching.

Lohman's unexpected UI career ended with a sense of symmetry. He taught his last class in the same classroom where he taught his first

Educational Psychology Professor David Lohman is retiring this year from a career full of unexpected opportunities.

He joined the University of Iowa faculty in 1981 after receiving a tip about the job opening from an acquaintance — a Stanford classmate he barely knew. Lohman was happy with his job at Stanford at the time, where he was a lecturer and research associate. But he looked into the UI, in part because his wife, Sherry, is an Iowa native.

“I never planned to spend my life in the Midwest, but the educational psychology program was strong and the measurement program astonishingly good,” Lohman says.

Throughout the years, Lohman followed other unexpected opportunities to branch off from his research base in the nature of individual differences in reasoning and problem solving. In 1997, he became author of Riverside Publishing Company’s Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) and has spent the remainder of his career working on the test and advising schools how best to use it. The most recent version is the result of nine years of work.

Lohman says he was attracted to the CogAT opportunity because of the important role the test can play in education.

“CogAT gives teachers important information about the level and pattern of their students’ abilities,” Lohman says. “Teachers get much information on what students should learn but very little information on how students learn best.”

The test provides a profile of students’ abilities that shows how students reason most effectively, whether it’s verbally, spatially, or quantitatively.

“Ability tests show that many children who perform poorly in school are more able than their school achievement is showing,” Lohman says. “Indeed, both the most and least able children typically have important cognitive strengths and weaknesses that an overall IQ-like score does not identify.”

His CogAT work led to new research interests in gifted education and especially in helping schools to identify academically talented English Language Learner (ELL) students.

Joni Lakin (PhD ’10), an assistant professor at Auburn University, came to the UI specifically to earn her Ph.D. with Lohman and worked with him from 2004 to 2010 to make the CogAT and other assessments better indicators of ELL students’ abilities.

“My favorite project was developing a verbal abilities test based entirely on pictures. It was a huge improvement for assessing young children and made the CogAT a uniquely valuable test,” Lakin says.

Lohman has served as a mentor to numerous students like Lakin.

David Mittelholtz (PhD ‘88) also came to the UI to earn his Ph.D. because of Lohman. Mittelholtz had already been accepted at another university and was planning to study there, but changed his mind after meeting Lohman.

“I continue to consider myself a professional disciple of Dave Lohman,” says Mittelholtz, manager of psychometric services at Pearson.

Mittelholtz says Lohman was an excellent mentor and a constructive teacher.

“He had high standards; I have the 39 drafts of my dissertation to prove it,” Mittelholtz says. “But, ultimately, it was a pleasure. He kept finding different things to teach at different times.”

Paul Nichols (BS ’83/MA ’85/PhD ’90), principal research scientist at Pearson, says he was grateful for Lohman’s ability to make graduate students feel like collaborators.

“You always felt like he was collaborating with you rather than dictating what you should do and how you should do it,” Nichols says. “He was fostering the type of students who become teachers and mentors.”

Lohman’s unexpected UI career ended with a sense of symmetry: He taught his last class in the same room where he taught his first.

“I liked how it came full circle,” Lohman says, “and I will miss the challenge of working with graduate students like those I have known in this place. It has been a joy.”