What is Psycho-Educational Assessment?
A psycho-educational assessment refers to the process by which we understand children think, make sense of what they see and hear and how they perform in reading, writing and Math. It involves keen observation, conversations with the child and the parents, involvement of the teachers and the use of standardised or informal tests. This helps to analyse the mental processes underlying a child’s educational performance. A psycho-educational assessment is made up of three types of testing:
- Intelligence testing: A series of psychological tests are administered to check a variety of mental functions, such as reasoning, comprehension, and judgment.
- Tests for processing of information: These help us check how children recognise and process the information that they receive through various senses (especially hearing and vision) and how they respond to it.
- Assessment of educational performance: It measures how the child reads, writes, spells and does Maths
Who can be referred for a Psycho-Educational Assessment?
Students who have different types of educational difficulties can be referred, such as:
- Significant drop in academic performance
- Failure in exams
- Poor reading, writing and spelling skills
- Difficulty understanding basic concepts in Math
- Inability to cope with learning in an unfamiliar medium of instruction (e.g. English), which is different from the child’s home language (e.g. Konkani, Hindi, etc.)
- Poor memory
- Difficulty completing tasks in time
- Difficulty expressing oneself while speaking
These students range in age from 6 to 16 years (Std. I to Std. X) and are usually referred by the school.
What are the psychological areas in learning that are assessed when a child has academic difficulties?
- Abstract Reasoning and Problem Solving Skills: Abstract reasoning involves flexible thinking, creativity, and judgment, to be able to solve problems in a very systematic manner with the information one has.
- Visual and Auditory Sequential Memory: The ability to put information that is seen or heard in the correct sequence during recall.
- Auditory and Visual Critical Thinking: - The ability to analyse, interpret and integrate information that is seen and heard in order to understand better.
- Memory Processes: The ability to make sense of the information we receive, storeand retrieve it when required.
- Language Skills: The ability to understand, speak, read and write to express oneself
- Attention Span: The ability to focus on a particular activity for a reasonable amount of time.
- Auditory and Visual Discrimination: The ability to distinguish between similar but different bits of information that is seen or heard.
- Visual Motor Coordination: How the eyes and hands work together to complete a task properly.
- Auditory Classification and Association: Putting together and categorising information that is heard
What happens during the Psycho-Educational Assessment?
Building rapport with the child and making sure that they are comfortable is very important to ensure we get the right results. A proper history is required to obtain detailed information about the child. Hearing and vision assessments are also very important to rule out any defects that could have an effect on learning and performance. Checklists to obtain information about the child’s learning, behaviour and peer relationships are sent to the teacher for completion. Throughout the session the child’s behaviour is observed closely. How a child does a task is as important as whether they performed it or not. Breaks are given to avoid boredom or fatigue, which could adversely affect performance. The child is given proper explanation before administering all the tests.
The Psycho-educational Assessment includes the following tests:
Wechsler’s Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC): It is a test of general intelligence that measures a child’s verbal as well as nonverbal abilities. It consists of 6 verbal and 6 nonverbal tests.
Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM) or Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM): These are used to assess intellectual functioning especially reasoning and the use of abstract concepts.
Seguin Form Board Test: This is a performance test which measures the child’s ability to see various geometric shapes and insert the forms into the correct holes. It is a timed test used as a quick measure of general intelligence.
Vineland Social Maturity Scale (VSMS): It is a screening test for developmental maturity. It assesses areas such as general self-help, self-help eating, self-help dressing, self-dependence, occupation, communication, locomotion and social competence.
Dyslexia Screening Test Jr. (DST. Jr): It is a screening test to identify potential risk of child having reading difficulties. It is administered on children from age 6 years 6 months to 11 years 5 months. The test consists of 12 subtests measuring various aspects of reading and spelling skills.
Schonell’s Reading and Spelling Test: This test measures the child’s ability to read and spell. A spelling and reading age is derived based on the performance.
The Ann Arbor Learning Inventory: This test looks at processing abilities i.e. how a child recognises and makes sense of what they see and hear. It has three levels: Level A(Kindergarten to Std. I), Level B (Std. IIto IV) and Level C(Std. V to VIII).The aspects which are assessed are attention span, auditory and visual discrimination, phonemic awareness, auditory and visual sequencing memory, visual motor coordination, auditory classification and association and auditory visual critical thinking.
Grade Level Assessment Device (GLAD): Developed in India, the GLAD assesses different aspects of learning such as attention span, math concepts, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, reading skills, writing skills and language concepts.
Curriculum Based Tests: Instead of using tests which are standardised on populations that are different from the referred students, Sethu has started developing and using testing material that is based on the school curriculum of the child in the areas of reading, spelling, writing and Math. This gives us a better idea of the child’s ability to cope with their school work. Once the assessments are complete, the tests are scored and a report is prepared. The reports contain detailed information about the child’s performance and behaviour. Based on these results, conclusions are drawn and helpful recommendations for further referral, assessment and therapy are made. The reports are discussed with the parents and child and letters are written to the child’s teacher giving suggestions on how to help the child in school.
Through the process of psycho-educational assessments, we hope to understand the learning strengths of the child, the difficulties faced and what training and resources are required to make learning meaningful for every child.