Value of Assessment & the Right Questions to Ask

June 05, 2020

Whenever I do an assessment I know that in many ways I am swimming against the tide in the way that I approach things.

Parents are focused on “the diagnosis,” largely supported by the medical model.   Such a model embodies a, “Yes, he has it,” or “No, he does not have it,” perspective.

I wish my corner of the universe were that straight-forward.  I am hopelessly mired in identifying the the “soup-pot” of variables interacting, in terms of the skill domains or areas of functioning that are in need of either direct remediation or some type of accommodation.

Often I find there is a blurring in thinking about these issues with the parents with whom I interact..  That is, I will hear parents talk about getting accommodations, when what they really mean is they are seeking direct services.

For example, a mom said to me the other day, “I want him to get extra help – he needs a 504 and in-class support.”

I know I’ve been beating this drum for some time (I have over 450 blog posts on my site; some will repeat), so let me keep beating.

Direct remediation is just that.  Whether in academics, sports, music, life coaching or any endeavor where a skill is involved, a teacher, therapist or coach  teaches a skill directly, followed up with a great deal of follow-up practice.

The language of direct instruction sounds like the following:

“Here’s how you play these chords on the guitar.”

“Let me show you what the backswing looks like.”

“Let’s look at how these words are broken down.”

“Here’s a way of quieting your mind, when you get anxious.”

504 Plans offer things like “in-class support” and extra- time (even though most kids want less time).

For struggling kids, they usually need a combination of direct instruction/practice and support.

If I had my way, the ratio would be about 80% direct instruction and 20% support and accommodation.  Unfortunately, in my experience with the struggling children, it’s probably a completely reversed ratio with about 90% focused on things like in-class support and extra time.

Assessment ideally should be guiding you on “next-step thinking.”  The assessment should identify major areas of need and what should be done next.

Important questions to ask include:

What are the areas of greatest need?  How mild, moderate and severe are the areas of need?    How much direct instruction is needed?  What is realistic to expect from the school in terms of direct instruction?  What type of accommodation would be helpful in addition to any direct instruction?  If no direct instruction is offered, what should we do?

Notice, the questions are focused on the practicality of the skill needs and the consideration (ratio) of direct instruction to support and accommodation.

Takeaway Point

Assessment drives “next-step thinking.”  Ask the right questions!

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