Dr. Darlene Elliott-Faust Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychologist

When to assess

WHEN A STUDENT STRUGGLES ACADEMICALLY: Indicators for a psychoeducational assessment

Learning, whether it is a young child learning to read or an adult taking an upholstery course, should be an exciting, challenging process. Learning requires that we stretch and challenge our present abilities and skills to develop new skills and abilities. Learning is an interactive process of risking, failure, and success. To enter this process it is crucial that the student have a positive view of self as a learner. When a student struggles academically for extended periods of time, self-confidence can become seriously eroded. A negative cycle can become established whereby the learner backs away from learning opportunities, which impedes skill acquisition and development.

Assessment and evaluation are ongoing processes in the classroom. Teachers modify and adapt curriculum to meet particular learning needs of their students. However, a psychoeducational assessment is indicated when a student continues to struggle despite program modifications and additional assistance, and it remains unclear why the student is not progressing. A psychoeducational assessment is conducted by an individual with M.A. or Ph.D. level training in educational psychology.  The focus is on understanding how a student learns and ways to assist the student to achieve to his or her potential.

A psychoeducational assessment involves the integration of information from a number of sources including:

  • developmental and academic histories (i.e., developmental milestones, report cards, previous academic evaluations, etc.) obtained from interviews with parents and review of information contained in the student’s Ontario School Record (O.S.R.)
  • interview with the student about his/her perceptions of school, learning ability, areas of competence and weakness, coping strategies, etc.
  • interview with the classroom teacher(s), review of work samples, and possible classroom observation
  • evaluation of cognitive functioning (i.e., assessment of intellectual abilities, information processing, memory, visual-motor integration, phonological awareness, etc.)
  • evaluation of the student’s present academic functioning, particularly in areas of: reading (decoding, comprehension); mathematics (numerical reasoning, computational skills); written language (spelling, compositional skills); organizational skills (time management, note taking, study skills) and executive functioning (planning, monitoring, organizational strategies).

The goals of a psychoeducational assessment include:

  • understand the student’s overall ability level and unique profile of learning strengths and weaknesses (e.g., visual memory stronger than auditory memory)
  • use the above information to work closely with school personnel to tailor academic interventions (both remedial and compensatory strategies) to enhance the student’s academic progress and ultimately improve the student’s academic self-confidence
  • communicate results to parents and student to promote understanding of how the student learns and encourage self-advocacy skills (e.g., student with extremely weak reading skills who borrows an audio book from the library for an English assignment)

A psychoeducational assessment should provide all involved (i.e., student, parents and school personnel) with a clear direction for making learning a positive, satisfying experience for the student.

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