General Education Assessment
Nowadays the schools are “the largest consumers of the intelligence tests” (Nijenhuis, Evers, & Mur, 2000, p. 99). They use the results of the students’ abilities assessment to predict the students’ academic productivity based on the analysis of the correlation between the tests’ scores and students’ performance. The test outcomes play a significant role in the administrative decision-making regarding the educational modes and schooling environment. Therefore, the adequate validity must be represented.
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In the educational institutions, the psychology specialists are responsible for the detection of the causes of the students’ outperformance in classes. The psychologists in schools also assist teachers in the correction of the educational plans and interventions aimed at the increase of students’ academic achievements.
The professionals apply the standardized testing for the identification of developmental delays or defects in cognitive processes – perception, attention, memory, thinking, undeveloped educational activity, health conditions, lack of educational motivation, etc. One of the professional goals of the school psychologist is the timely identification various psychological and learning disabilities and developmental disorders in children and adolescents. Psychologists need to address these children to the further psychological, medical and pedagogical examinations.
The Differential Aptitude Test (DAT) is one of the widely used standardized tests for the assessment of multiple abilities in students or organizational personnel. The test helps to evaluate the numerical abilities, verbal and abstract reasoning, usage of language, the abilities of spatial dimensions estimation, etc. (Taylor, 1999, p. 2). According to the representatives of the psychological organizations and committees, “the psychometric qualities of the DAT are rated highest” among all the tests invented for the evaluation of the cognitive abilities in both children and adults (Nijenhuis, Evers, & Mur, 2000, p. 102).
Validity may be defined as the criteria of measurements reliability of the psychological qualities and phenomena assessed in the test. Validity represents test’s effectiveness and pertinence. The validity level of the best tests usually doesn’t exceed 80%. In the study conducted by Nijenhuis and colleagues (2000), the reliability coefficients were: “Vocabulary 0.84, Spelling 0.73, Language Usage 0.78, Verbal Reasoning 0.75, Abstract Reasoning 0.85, Spatial Relations 0.90, Mechanical Reasoning 0.84, Numerical Ability 0.83 and Clerical Speed and Accuracy 0.86” (p. 102). The reliability data is represented by Cronbach’s alpha and test-retest (for Clerical Speed and Accuracy identifications) coefficients. Thus, DAT is characterized by an excellent reliability and validity of results.
“Intelligence tests help psychologists make recommendations about the kind of teaching that will benefit a child most” (Benson, 2003, p. 48). While using only the IQ testing, the psychologists fail to evaluate a child as a whole. The assessment of multiple dimensions of students’ abilities helps to elaborate efficient teaching strategies.
DAT is comprised of several subtests that are aimed to measure the overall level of individual’s intelligence. According to Carroll’s Three-Stratum Theory of Intelligence (1993), the cognitive abilities are subdivided into three groups: general ability, broad abilities, and narrow abilities (p. 4). Each type of assessment included in DAT is meant to measure a specific dimension of individual’s ability: memory and learning, visual and auditory perception, visualization ability, spelling, etc. In this way, DAT may provide a comprehensive and integrated outlook on the student’s aptitudes by encompassing all of his/her abilities.
In the study conducted by Nijenhuis and colleagues (2000), “two types of criterion measures were collected” – the students’ grades in different subjects and the DAT scores (p. 103). The class grades demonstrate if a student’s performance is at the sufficient level. The estimation of the correlations between the average grades and DAT scores helps to determine the academic prediction of students’ success in different aspects of education (Taylor, 1999, p. 4).
The standard version of DAT consists of a set of eight ability tests. The number of subtests’ items varies according to purposes and sample of testing (Alkhadher, Clarke, & Anderson, 1998, p. 207). For example, Alkhadher and colleagues (1998), put up to 40 items in each of the DAT tests (p.207). The approximate time of answering the subtest questions is one 20 minutes, and a small break is usually taken between the tests. DAT is a written test; therefore, it can be time-consuming. However, there are also the computerized versions of DAT – “computerized adaptive tests (CATs)” (Alkhadher, Clarke, & Anderson, 1998, p. 205).
Similarly to DAT, CATs are used to predict the academic performance and learning abilities of children and adults. In the electronic format of testing, the system scores and records the results, it thus has some advantages related to the convenience of the information storage. Moreover, it is observed by Alkhadher, Clarke, and Anderson, that with the computerized version “testing time can be reduced by 25 to 75 per cent without any loss in measurement precision” (p. 205). Despite the reduction of length and time of conduction in the computerized version, DAT and CAT are characterized by a high level of equivalence in results as well as in validity and reliability.
According to Jacob, Decker, and Hartshorne (2010), “a number of psychological and educational tests can now be administered, scored, and interpreted via the Internet or computer software programs” (p. 159). Computerized versions of tests facilitate scoring and data interpretation. Software testing programs are usually integrated with the knowledge base comprised of the research findings and theories provided by experts. The access to the additional source of knowledge may give the examiner some new ideas and let him/her o look at the interpretation process from a new perspective (Jacoob, Decker, & Hartshorne, 2010, p. 159).
Technology increases the reliability and accuracy of the scores interpretation. Nevertheless, the computerized testing requires a high level of psychologist’s competence and operating the test without sufficient level of expertise is unethical and unprofessional because it may lead to the misinterpretation of scores and the emergence of multiple errors.
According to Warne, Yoon, and Price (2014), test bias include “mean score differences,” “differential predictive validity,” “differences in group performance on specific items,” “differing factor structures,” and “unequal consequences of test use across groups” (p. 571). Most frequently, the different types of test bias occur when the test scores of participants from different racial and ethnic groups are compared. Moreover, it is observed that the independent invariables such as socio-economic conditions, test anxiety, gender, culture, etc. To make the test results more reliable, it is necessary to compare and analyse them across the groups that are characterized by the similarity of the demographic backgrounds.
“Human mental abilities, such as intelligence, are complex and profoundly important, both in a practical sense and for what they imply about the human condition” (Gray & Thompson, 2004, p. 471). The comprehension of individual’s mental abilities supports the creation of condition in which they can be improved and corrected. The human abilities may be both genetic and influenced by the environmental conditions in which a person lives: education, society, family, etc. Either way, each person has different skills and talents. Based on this, the question of the intelligence testing use is controversial.
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The concept of mental ability is related to “ethical principle of human social equality” (Gray & Thompson, 2004, p. 471). Human intelligence is dependent on neurobiological factors to a large extent. Nevertheless, the social factors, i.e. education, can provoke either its enhancement or degradation. While diagnosing a learning or mental disability, it is important to take into consideration both innate and external factors.
A person, whose level of intelligence is assessed as low, and wasn’t improved through the primary interventions, must be exposed to a further examination and intervention practices in order to detect neurological impairments. The ethical approach towards aptitude testing implies the consideration of individual differences and factors. The cognitive ability and intelligence testing can be useful only in the case when it is conducted and interpreted in a proper way. According to Benson (2003), it is wrong to think of intelligence “as a fixed, innate ability, instead of something that develops in a context” (p. 48). Therefore, the psychologists need to pay a larger attention to the environmental factors as they play a vital role in the formation of human mentality.
The results of DAT help the psychologists in schools to find the correlation between the students’ grades and their abilities and predicate their academic achievements. The test scores help to identify the students’ whose skills need improvement and elaborate the intervention based on the reliable evidence.
Special Education Assessment
Cognitive disabilities affect both learning process and communication. Learning disorders interfere with the development of new skills, perception, comprehension of the complex information, and independent performance. In this way, cognitive impairments negatively influence not merely the academic achievements in school but other aspects of individual’s life as well.
Nowadays, a great variety of models for the assessment of learning disabilities exists – two- or one-test discrepancy models, intra-individual differences model, etc. (Fletcher, Francis, Morris, & Lyon, 2005, p. 510). Nevertheless, the model of response to intervention (RTI) may be regarded as one of the most valid and reliable. In this approach, the number of assessments is increased and aimed at the evaluation of students’ achievement over time. “By linking multiple assessments to specific attempts to intervene with the child, the construct of unexpected underachievement can be operationalized, in part, on the basis of nonresponsiveness to instruction to which most other students respond” (Fletcher, Francis, Morris, & Lyon, 2005, p. 512).
In RTI model, the criterion for the learning disability is the lack of student’s response to intervention or instruction of high quality. The main requirement in RTI is the continuity of monitoring of the students’ performance and progress.
RTI is based on multiple short examinations of the children’s performance in class, as the result, the obtained data is more reliable. The model “has the potential to reduce the difficulties encountered with reliance on a single assessment at a single time point” (Fletcher, Francis, Morris, & Lyon, 2005, p. 510). The evaluation of change in performance contributes to its high level of precision. A psychologist gathers vast information throughout the period of students’ observation; the extensive data increases the chance of to making a right diagnostic decision.
According to “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the reading disorder is characterized by low reading performance, poor comprehension of texts, low reading accuracy, and excess reading difficulties in comparison to those that are expected (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). In schools, one of the most common methods of the mental and learning disabilities assessments is IQ testing, i.e. Wechsler tests. Wechsler tests of intelligence are meant to assess the cognitive abilities in both normative and clinical samples in age from 6 to 16 years old and can be effectively applied as a part of the complete psychoeducational assessment.
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) evaluates “Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory, and Processing Speed” (Chen & Zhu, 2011, p. 161). The price of the fourth edition of the test is $1.693. The validity data included in the product helps to assess “ADHD, learning disabilities (reading, writing, math), traumatic brain injury, autism/Aspergers syndrome, mental retardation, and receptive and expressive language disorders” (Pearson, 2016, par. 2).
For WISC reliability determination, the researchers use the omega estimation coefficients and omega hierarchical (Canivez, 2014, p. 41). In the study conducted by Canivez (2014), the total variance of tests was 6.3%, and the omega hierarchical coefficients representing the scales of reliability in the subtests included in WISC ranged from.098 to.330 (p. 45).
The test requires a high level of competence in scores interpretation. It can be conducted by the professionals with a doctorate degree in education or psychology, psychology practice license, or APA, NASP, INS, NAN certificates.
NASP Professional Standards
The principles of ethical behavior elaborated by National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) help the psychology specialists in schools to assess and improve learning abilities and mental health in children and adolescents (NASP, 2010, p. 1). There are five basic principles the school psychologists must follow in their practice, and each of them covers a specific aspect of professional conduct.
Autonomy and Self-Determination (Consent and Assent)
According to this principle, the psychological assessment in schools is conducted by consent of students’ parents. The parental consent may not be required when the assessment is not characterized by a large scope and doesn’t invoke intervention. In more severe cases, the parents should be informed. The parents and the assessment participants must be aware of the testing procedures, outcomes, and condition.
A psychologist must reveal all the information regarding the psychological assessment and its potential results. According to the principle of autonomy, a professional encourages students to participate in assessment and respects his/her decision even if it is against participation. Overall, the first principle is based on the respectful attitude towards the people whom a psychologist works with. A professional always respects personal freedom of choice and right for information.
Privacy and Confidentiality
The compliance with the confidentiality and privacy regulations is one of the fundamental requirements for every psychologist. Psychologists should protect and keep the personal information received throughout his/her work. The disclosure of personal information of clients is regarded as risk factor jeopardizing personal, legal, and social well-being. The personal information can be revealed with the permission of the client. The confidential information can be discussed only in the professional environment and with the professional purposes.
Fairness and Justice
By following the principle of fairness and justice, the school psychologies encourage respect to diversity in schools. One of the roles of psychologists in schools is the creation of the friendly and favorable environment for all the students. A good social climate in school positively affects students and personnel psychological state, reduces stress, and, as the result, improves academic performance and proficiency. The specialists identify the discriminatory practices in schools and attempt to eliminate and prevent them. The school psychologists are involved in the elaboration of policies and programs for tolerance and acceptance of diversities.
The principle of competence implies the constant professional development and discipline. For the efficient functioning, the psychologists need to be able to determine their personal strengths and weaknesses to provide competent and qualified service. Psychologists need to recognize and identify the individual differences in clients and need to be able to work with them. A high level of qualification, continuous engagement in self-education, and ability to face the professional and personal incompetency assist a psychology specialist to practice more effectively and for the benefit of the clients.
Responsible Assessment and Intervention Practices
The psychological diagnosis may affect personal life to a large extent. Therefore, making a diagnosis is a very responsible task. The principle of responsible assessment is extensively interrelated with the professional competence. Moreover, it is related to the professional’s ability to understand the outcomes and results of his/her professional actions. Responsibility implies the constant involvement in the processes of participant assessments, observation, and monitoring as well as the ability to recognize the errors and ineffectiveness of particular intervention practices. The psychologists need to aim at the high level of validity and reliability of assessments. The compliance with the standards is a necessity.
Responsible Use of Materials
By following the given principle, a psychologist pays respect towards the intellectual property and work of his/her colleagues and other members of the psychological community. While conducting the assessment, the specialists need to use appropriate tools and methods. It is important to have a sufficient level of qualification for the assessment conduction. By using materials in a responsible way and taking into consideration the interests of others, psychologists increase the effectiveness of their work.
According to the Principle of Professional Competence and Responsibility, “When using computer-administered assessments, computer-assisted scoring, and/or interpretation programs, school psychologists choose programs that meet professional standards for accuracy and validity” (NASP, 2010, p. 7). A high level of professional competence is required because the objectivity of results and data reliability depends directly on it.
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