Need for Assessment
Why do parents and students decide to have a Psychoeducational assessment done? There are specific reasons for assessing a student. Some parents seek out assessment to deal with a specific issue affecting their child’s learning. This could include struggling to keep up with certain subjects such as Math and English, refusing to complete homework, or upon suggestion by the child’s teacher. Some parents view the process as a way in which they can better understand their child’s strengths and the type of educational experience which would best suit their learning style. In other situations, the assessment may be required to determine eligibility for accommodations at the post-secondary level and/or funding for remedial services or specialized educational placement (e.g., gifted placement).
A Psychoeducational assessment examines how the learner’s cognitive abilities interact with their academic skill development. Psychoeducational assessments identify cognitive strengths and issues that impact learning and determine whether specific remedial intervention and or special education placement is required. Each assessment provides educational recommendations designed to enhance a student’s learning potential.
The assessment follows a standard process. The first step is to gather information about the learner’s background history based on interviews with parents and teachers, and the learner. To ensure that the assessment is comprehensive, the student’s developmental, medical, social and academic histories are analyzed to determine whether milestones have been reached at the appropriate ages and stages.
The cognitive aspect of the assessment is usually completed first as it is more ‘game-like’ and usually viewed as enjoyable by the learner. This allows the assessor and learner to develop rapport using materials that are novel. The assessor attempts to capture and map out how the student engages in problem solving in differing situations.
Following the cognitive aspect of the assessment, academic/educational testing is completed. These tests objectively measure reading, writing, math and study skills to determine the student’s grade equivalent levels. Knowing how the student’s specific cognitive skills are developed and how well the student performs on academic tasks, allows the assessor to understand how the student’s cognitive skills actually impact his/her academic skill development.
After the results are compiled, a verbal presentation is made to the parents followed by a written report. The presentation provides an overview and analysis of the student’s learning profile, including their cognitive strengths and relative weaknesses. More specifically, the learner is described in terms that are meaningful and pragmatic, and the report clearly states whether or not the student requires intervention and/or accommodations. For example, a student may have notably stronger visual than verbal abilities. This learning bias may support their math and science skill development, whereas their academic skills in the language arts may be underdeveloped. Conversely, students with visual-perceptual challenges may struggle recognizing social cues and utilizing organizational or study skills.
Based on the patterns of strengths and weaknesses in the assessment, specific recommendations are detailed. Recommendations may include tutoring or coaching on compensatory strategies which teach students specific techniques on how to problem solve to their best potential, and/or accommodations in the classroom or at home, so students are provided with equal access to learning materials.
Students are also encouraged to understand their own learning profile and how their processing strengths can be harnessed. This is an important step in self-advocacy. They learn that different people learn in different ways (i.e., one size does not fit all). This knowledge provides students with confidence and reassurance to work ‘smart’ using their strengths. The ultimate goal of a Psychoeducational assessment is to provide parents with a roadmap which allows them to say: “That explains it. This is what we need to do.”
About the Author:
Dr. Bill Ford is a Toronto educational psychologist and the Director of Educational Connections. For over 35 years, Dr. Ford has specialized in the assessment of learning, recommended intervention strategies, and assisted families in their school search. Dr. Ford also works closely with students to prepare them for their post-secondary and vocational transition.