Graduate Course –School Psychology

Assignment Summary

Ryan McGill, PhD

Assistant Professor, School Psychology and Counselor Education

William & Mary

Course: Psychoeducational Assessment for School Psychologists is a year-long course sequence in the school psychology graduate training program that covers the administration and interpretation of cognitive-achievement measures, principles of evidence-based assessment, clinical applications of psychoeducational assessment, and report writing. The assignment described occurs in the second half of the course.

Student population:
Course enrollment averages 10 school psychology masters-level students.

Course learning goals/outcomes:

  1. Employ basic test administration skills including rapport building, organization, consideration of the physical environment, and attention to the individual needs of the child.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate tests through an evidence-based assessment lens.
  3. Integrate assessment data in a way that conveys central themes supported with evidence.
  4. Clearly communicate assessment findings and intervention recommendations in written reports to families and teachers of diverse backgrounds.

Assignment learning goals/outcomes:

The overarching goal of the instructional module and accompanying assignment is for students to understand all of the resources that are available to them to help support their clinical decision-making as a scientist-practitioner.

The learning outcomes for the module are consistent with Principle II.3 of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Principles for Professional Ethics.

  1. Students will demonstrate an ability to navigate a diverse empirical literature to capably evaluate whether a test and/or prescribed test interpretations should be adopted in clinical practice.
  2. Students will effectively utilize basic understanding of the scientific principles of psychological measurement to apply standards and expectations in best test design to critically evaluate published materials in school psychology.
  3. Students will understand that test reviews and choices to adopt new measures is an iterative process that is ongoing throughout the life cycle of the test.
  4. Students will effectively utilize technology to supplement oral presentation of research findings.

The bottom line is that as future practitioners, they have an ethical and, in some cases, a legal imperative to take ownership of the decision whether to administer a test, and there are established standards that should be carefully considered in that decision-making process.

Description of the assignment: 

The required assignment is a group test review of tests that are commonly used in school psychology and that we are unable to cover in our curriculum. I have curated a set of five to six popular commercial ability measures that have sufficient information available for students to interrogate a diverse body of empirical literature for their reviews.

  1. Students are grouped into pairs or groups of three and assigned a test to evaluate. They present their findings to the class orally and visually.
  2. Students are given approximately one month of lead time from assignment to due date. Technological medium is left up to the group, although groups are required to provide a copy of their presentation to the course instructor on the due date. Presentations are expected to be 20-30 minutes long.
  3. Students are required to access Mental Measurements Yearbook (MMY) reviews of their test in order to critically evaluate the quality of the review, consistency across the reviews, and what strengths and weaknesses are identified. The MMY can be accessed in both print and digital versions from our academic library. Students then reconcile those elements with the information furnished in other available reviews and/or the peer reviewed literature as well as their own individual appraisal of the test.

 View/Download Assignment Description (PDF)

Prerequisite knowledge needed to complete the assignment:

The course module (lecture) is provided well before the assignment due date so that students have a clear understanding of expectations and process. This time frame also helps to clarify any gaps or misconceptions that may need remediation from previous measurement training.  Topics covered include: ethnical imperatives to adopting tests and interpreting test scores (e.g. NASP principles), how to independently evaluate a test (adequacy of norms, reliability, validity, clinical utility, quality of test materials, feasible administration), independent test review sources to supplement clinical judgement (e.g. MMY and journal articles), and synthesizing all available information to make a decision.

In terms of supplemental resources, I list the Standards for Educational and Psychological Standards (AERA, APA, & NCME, 2014) as a recommended resource as it may help students gain additional proficiency in understanding the obligations for the test publisher as they appraise the quality of test technical manuals and what information is provided to the test user. Additionally, Alex Beaujean (2015) has written an article that provides advice to school psychologists about adopting revised versions of tests for use in clinical practice. I also find Dr. Joel Schneider’s psychometrics from the ground up tutorials to be helpful for students who would like access to higher-level resources.

Beaujean, A. A. (2015). Adopting a new test edition: Psychometric and practical considerations. Research and Practice in the Schools, 3(1), 51-57.

Grading of the assignment:

Assignment is graded using a conventional 100-point scale.  Grading and feedback if provided from inspection of content on the presentation slides (60%), the quality of the oral presentation in class (30%), and peer evaluation of participation (10%).

Major points of emphasis when grading the presentation are: a) whether the presentation covered all required elements in the assignment description and b) whether the student conceptually understands the measurement and test development concepts they choose to highlight and discuss. In my experience, the most consistent feedback is clarifying misconceptions about journal findings that are presented or measurement concepts that are discussed. Outcomes and indicators for success are increasing citations for primary source assessment literature, use and access of gold-standard reviews from MMY and other sources as a part of the decision whether to adopt a test in practice, and increasing understanding of psychological measurement terms and concepts as a critical element of practice.

The goal of the peer evaluation is to mitigate social loafing by having each student independently and confidently report their own contribution to the project as well as each of their partners.

Student response and value of the assignment for students:

Practitioners frequently report to me not feeling like they have the proficiency to even casually inspect a test technical manual so this module is also an effort to try and illustrate basic aspects of what they should be evaluating when considering whether to adopt a new test.