Contemporary Assessment Practices Among School Contemporary Assessment Practices

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Contemporary Assessment Practices Among School Contemporary Assessment Practices Among Psychologists with Expertisewith in Deafness

Contemporary Assessment Practices Among School Contemporary Assessment Practices Among Psychologists with Expertisewith in Deafness School Psychologists Expertise in Deafness Elizabeth Gibbons, Ph. D. , NCSP & Bryan D. Miller, Ph. D. , NCSP School Psychology Program, Gallaudet University Introduction Appropriately assessing the cognitive and academic skills of deaf and hard-of-hearing (D/HH) students is complex and requires considerable expertise. In addition to developing a subspecialization in deafness, school psychologists who serve D/HH students may benefit from utilizing specialized assessment approaches, such as cross-battery assessment (Hardy-Braz & Miller, 2004), neuropsychological assessment (Morere, 2008), and curriculum-based assessment (Miller, 2011). However, there is currently no consensus among these professionals as to the appropriateness of such approaches. Further, given that school psychologists who specialize in deafness are likely to be isolated from other school psychologists (Gibbons, 2009), they may differ in terms of their perceptions of the utility of these contemporary approaches with the population of D/HH students. The goals of the present study were to: 1. Foster expert consensus on the application and utility of contemporary approaches such as cross-battery assessment, neuropsychological assessment, and curriculum-based assessment with this D/HH students. 2. Identify common challenges in providing appropriate assessment of and interventions for D/HH students. 3. Summarize expert recommendations to address these challenges. Method The Delphi method has been used across many disciplines to structure communication among groups of individuals whose collective expertise is valued (Linstone & Turoff, 2002). Researchers serve as facilitators to establish a consensus among the experts and to develop recommendations for best practice based on the judgments of professionals with considerable training and experience. For the purposes of this study, school psychologists with expertise in assessing D/HH students responded to a series of questions designed to elicit authoritative responses. Because there is a shortage of professionals with training and experience in the assessment of deaf students (Luckner & Bowen, 2006), it can be very difficult to locate and recruit research participants. For this reason, recruitment methods often depend upon collaboration with networks of professionals who work with deaf students (Cawthon, 2006). This study employed a snowballing technique, asking that recipients of recruitment messages refer their colleagues who might be interested in participating. During the first round, participants were asked to respond to open-ended questions regarding their experiences and perceptions of best practices in assessment of D/HH students. Topics for the first round included challenges in assessing and designing interventions for D/HH students as well as the utility of contemporary assessment approaches with this population. Because the Delphi method is a dynamic process, questions that were posed during the subsequent round were based upon the contributions made by participants during the first round. Expert contributions were summarized and shared with all participants after each round in an effort to stimulate discussion and arrive at a professional consensus with regard to best practice. Summary of Results Round One Participants described very similar general approaches to assessing and selecting interventions for DHH students. Most reported engaging in a collaborative process that is responsive to the referral question, and involves consideration of each student’s unique background (e. g. etiology of hearing loss) and obstacles to learning. When assessment is warranted, participants describe test selection that is informed by their own skills and knowledge, as well as the referral question, the psychometric properties of the test, and the student’s age, ability, and communication modality. Participants reported a number of general challenges in assessing and selecting interventions for DHH students, including an inadequate number of norm-referenced measures that may be administered in combination to demonstrate concordance of results. Another challenge was a lack of interventions that are developed with DHH students in mind. Many available interventions are not appropriate for DHH students as is (as they may emphasize auditory learning), nor can they be quikly or easily adapted. While participants described a very uniform general approach, each varied in terms of familiarity with contemporary assessment practices: Participants ranged from having little to advanced familiarity with CHC Theory. Participants considered CHC Theory most useful for assessing students (e. g. identifying cognitive strengths and needs, determining the presence of SLD) and selecting interventions. The theory’s emphasis on conceptualizing linguistic/cultural knowledge as distinct from other cognitive abilities was seen as a strength, as was applying a cross-battery approach to assessing DHH students. Concerns about the utility of CHC theory included both time constraints and construct validity. Participants ranged from having no experience with CBA/CBM to being completely familiar with the approach. Participants considered information obtained through CBA/CBM to be extremely valuable for progress monitoring, identifying areas of academic need, informing IEP goal development, preventing learning problems, and reducing the number of referrals for comprehensive evaluations. Concerns about the practical use of CBA/CBM included encountering resistance from teachers and school administrators. Participants ranged from having very, very limited familiarity with a school neuropsychological approach to being credentialed in this area. Participants considered school neuropsychological approaches most useful for clarifying each student’s unique pattern of strength and needs, and identifying practical applications for the classroom. This approach was seen as particularly useful given the relatively high incidence of additional disabilities and syndromes which have a neurological component among DHH students. Concerns about applying a school neuropsychological approach centered on the participants’ training and supervision needs. Round Two During the second round of inquiry, participants were asked to share how they address concerns with each contemporary assessment approach. Regarding meaningfully sharing assessment results, participants suggested beginning with the referral question, and then describing the student’s strengths and needs, giving examples of how the cognitive and academic skills assessed impact the student in the classroom and everyday life. To address concerns regarding applying CHC Theory, participants suggested that school psychologists be selective in determining which assessment approach is most appropriate for each student. Providing a comprehensive assessment using a CHC approach can be most useful when a student’s learning difficulties go beyond typical concerns regarding language access. With other students, it may be more helpful to focus on direct assessment of academic skills that are focused on guiding instruction. To address concerns regarding CBA/CBM, participants recommended using efficient measures for brief, frequent progress monitoring that result in less time spent testing students and do not overlap with, or duplicate, the results of other measures. To address acceptability, participants recommended providing teachers with user-friendly, easy to implement approaches, rather than theoretical rationale. It is also recommended that the school psychologist assume initial responsibility for material development and plan implementation (by modeling and providing resources and assistance), and gradually reduce involvement over time. To address concerns regarding applying a school neuropsychological approach, participants emphasized the importance of consulting with others through list-servs and other networking opportunities. Having direct supervision, attending workshops, and conducting self-study of available literature also recommended. References Cawthon, S. W. (2006). Pebbles in the mainstream: How do we find them? American Annals of the Deaf, 151(2), 105 -113. Gibbons, E. (2009). A national survey on the role of the school psychologist in educational placement decisions for deaf students. Dissertation Abstracts International, 69(12). (UMI No. 3337243) Hardy-Braz, S. T. & Miller, B. D. (2004, April). Matters of the deaf mind: Assessing students who are deaf or hard of hearing using CHC cross-battery assessment. Presentation at the National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention, Dallas, TX. Linstone, H. A. & Turoff, M. (2002). Introduction. In H. A. Linstone & M. Turoff (Eds. ), The Delphi method: Techniques and applications (pp. 3 -12). Retrieved from http: //is. njit. edu/pubs/delphibook. pdf Luckner, J. L. , & Bowen, S. (2006). Assessment practices of professionals serving students who are deaf or hard of hearing: An initial investigation. American Annals of the Deaf, 151(4), 410 -417. Miller, B. D. (2011, February). Utility of Curriculum-Based Approaches for Students with Hearing Loss. Presentation at the National Association of School Psychologists Annual Convention, San Francisco, CA. Morere, D. (2008, November). Referral issues associated with the neuropsychological assessment of deaf and hard of hearing clients. Presentation at Gallaudet University’s Making Connections Conference: Neuropsychological Assessment and Applications with Individuals who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Washington, DC. Acknowledgements The authors would like to acknowledge the participation of the following school psychologists who shared their expertise: C. Tane Akamatsu, Jason Collins, Kimberly H. Lemite, Holly J. Miller, Robin Santa-Teresa, Terri Waddell-Motter, and Robert Whitaker.