Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Direct Observational Assessment during Test Sessions and Child Clinical Interviews

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Direct Observational Assessment during Test Sessions and Child Clinical Interviews

Article excerpt

Abstract. Test sessions and child clinical interviews offer opportunities for direct observations of children's behavior in controlled settings. Moreover, standardized instruments for test session and interview observations offer more reliable and valid assessment methods than do anecdotal reports. This article reviews characteristics and psychometric properties of three standardized instruments for test session or interview observations: the Guide to Assessment of Test Session Behavior (GATSB; Glutting & Oakland, 1993), the Test Observation Form (TOF; McConaughy & Achenbach, 2004), and the Observation Form for the Semistructured Clinical Interview for Children and Adolescents (SCICA; McConaughy & Achenbach, 2001). Broader issues regarding situational specificity of children's behavior and need for multimethod assessment are also discussed, along with the advantages and limitations of standardized test session and interview observations.

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Over the past decade or more, surveys have consistently shown that school psychologists spend over half of their time in assessment activities (Hosp & Reschly, 2002; Hutton, Dubes, & Muir, 1992; Stinnett, Havey, & Oehler-Stinnett, 1994). In the Hosp and Reschly survey, NASP members reported spending 56% of their time in assessment activities (22.2 hours per 40-hour week), versus 16.5% time in problem-solving consultation (6.6 hours per week), and 6.5% time in systems/organizational consultation (2.6 hours per week). In most surveys, the most frequently used procedures included intelligence tests, structured observations in classrooms, behavioral rating scales, and interviews with teachers, parents, and children.

All the time spent in assessment offers rich opportunities for directly observing children's behavior, as well as obtaining test scores and other assessment data. To put things into perspective, direct observations in test sessions and child clinical interviews can be viewed as assessment methods falling midway along the continuum of behavioral assessment described by Shapiro and Kratochwill (2000). That is, test sessions and clinical interviews offer "controlled settings" that lie between direct assessment in naturalistic settings or analog situations and indirect assessment through self-reports or informant reports. These two controlled settings have several advantages for observational assessment. First, test examiners and interviewers can observe children's behavior under relatively uniform conditions, in contrast to more variable conditions in naturalistic settings like the classroom and home environment. Second, test examiners and interviewers can compare their observations of an individual child to their observations of other children in similar settings. Third, test examiners and interviewers can consider the effects of specific situational factors that might influence children's behavior in the controlled setting but might or might not be present in other settings. Examples are one-on-one interaction between adult and child, response-contingent praise and encouragement, a supportive nonjudgmental style of adult toward child, absence of peers, reduced distracting stimuli, clear directions, and demonstration of task requirements.

This article discusses direct observations during test sessions and child clinical interviews, with a special focus on standardized instruments for recording and scoring observations during these two controlled situations. The first section reviews two standardized instruments for test session observations: the Guide to the Assessment of Test Session Behavior (GATSB; Glutting & Oakland, 1993) and the Test Observation Form (TOF; McConaughy & Achenbach, 2004). The next section reviews the Semistructured Clinical Interview for Children and Adolescents (SCICA, McConaughy & Achenbach, 2001), with special emphasis on the SCICA Observation Form. Later sections discuss associations between test session or interview observations and other assessment data, situational specificity of children's behavior, and advantages and limitations of these forms of direct observational assessment. …

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