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The Case for Online Psychoeducational Assessments

Online tools offer a viable solution to the troubling gaps in mental health services.
Online Assessments
 
A psychoeducational assessment uses psychometric testing tools and observations to assess a child’s cognitive abilities, social and emotional functioning, academic achievement and ability to sustain attention. This data can be used to the benefit of the child to:
  • set realistic academic expectations according to the student’s strengths and weaknesses
  • identify classroom strategies, tools, and resources required to maximize student learning
  • determine the most appropriate academic environment, curriculum modifications, exam accommodations, and/or study strategies that will enable students to reach their potential

Many students do not receive the mental health and educational services they require. Whether it is due to circumstance, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, or a lack of services in their area, these “service gaps” result in real limitations for students. For example, it s well-known that many disorders can be effectively resolved with early identification and intervention.

Widely Used Technology

Online psychoeducational assessments have the potential to be part of the solution to the service gap. This technology greatly improves access to qualified professionals and the mental health services they provide.

It is encouraging to know that online psychological and learning tools have enjoyed a measured and stepwise approach to use. Secure, internet-based testing systems – fully customisable – have long been widely used, particularly in employee recruitment and health.

The same tools and technology were next used by universities and colleges for online learning and examinations. Primary and secondary schools followed suit, using standardised online assessments to gauge student learning. Research has shown that both students and teachers prefer online testing tools to old “pencil-and-paper” exams.

E-therapy is Effective

For individuals seeking therapy online, the results have been similarly positive. E-therapy clients are predominantly satisfied with what the service provides, with communication and connection generally unaffected by the medium. Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to remain especially effective online, especially when treating mood anxiety disorders. As such, the observational data necessary for psychoeducational assessments is believed to be very adequately provided for through online means.

Although Educational Psychologists remain cautious about remote online administration of psychoeducational assessments, preliminary research supports that this mode of delivery produces valid results.

Test Considerations

The following are important and necessary considerations when administering online assessments. A fully integrated online assessment service will ensure that all these items are fully addressed:

The Proctor

This important “test guide” should have an understanding of the process. Their training should include test-specific tips on how to enhance administration effectiveness to increase the overall validity of findings.

Test Security

Test security should always be observed. Materials should be kept in a lockable cabinet.

Equipment

A computer with a webcam and a headset are necessary to adhere to standard modes of delivery best supported by research. Test developers also stipulate that certain tools (e.g. WISC-V) can only be administered remotely via specific platforms (e.g. Q-Interactive).

Testing Environment

  • Face-to-face testing sessions must take place in a comfortable, noise and distraction free environment. Online administration is no different.
  • Proctors/Invigilators
  • Build rapport with students prior to the assessment
  • Guide the assessment process for the student
  • Uphold test security
  • Ensure students adhere to time constraints imposed on certain subtests
  • Monitor and report student behaviour of clinical interest
High Student Need

Student need is undoubtedly high and access to services across English-medium international schools remains low. Fortunately, in the face of this service gap, there is scope for the ethical and valid provision of online assessments post-pandemic. Practitioners and school psychologists should proceed with due care and diligence to ensure the validity of test findings.

The BFDC Assessment Department is a leader in Online Assessments. Contact Dr. Kristie Craigen for further information.