Unit 5: Assessment of students with SLD

5.1.  Assessment of perceptual, memory skills and cognitive skills and readiness skills

5.2.  Assessment of attention, listening and speaking skills

5.3.  Assessment of reading and writing skills

5.4.  Assessment of math skills computation and application

5.5.  Assessment using various tools (e.g., First Screen, Behaviour Checklist for Screening students with SLD (BCSLD), Grade Level Assessment Device for Children with Learning Problems in Schools (GLAD), Diagnostic Test of Reading Disorders (DTRD), Diagnostic Test of Learning Disability (DTLD). Documentation of assessment, interpretation and report writing, DALI)













5.1           Assessment of perceptual, memory skills and cognitive skills and readiness skills


Assessment of perceptual skills

1. Visual Discrimination (VD): the individual is shown a picture or design and asked to identify the matching design at the bottom of the page.

2. Visual Memory (VM): the individual is shown a picture or design for 5 s, the page is turned, and the child is asked to identify the matching design on the new page.

3. Spatial Relationships (SR): the individual is shown a series of pictures or designs and asked to identify the one that is different, they are advised that it “may differ in detail or in the rotation of all or part of the design.”

4. Form Constancy (FC): the individual is asked to identify one picture or design on the page, it can be larger, smaller, or rotated.

5. Sequential Memory (SM): the individual is shown an arrangement of pictures or designs for 5 s and then asked to identify the matching design on the next page. The number of items in the arrangement increases throughout the test.

6. Figure-Ground (FG): the individual is asked to identify an image or design within a more complex shape.

Assessment of memory skills

Psychological research has shown that memory is not a unitary construct. Instead, memory consists of a coordinated collection of processes and abilities that work together to enable individuals’ day-to-day functioning. Furthermore, one aspect of memory can be impaired while another remains intact. For that reason, psychologists do not rely on a single procedure for assessing memory. Many assessment measures exist, and commonly used assessment procedures contain multiple subcomponents, each aimed at assessing a particular type of memory. 

Children exhibiting signs of developmental delay will benefit from professional, comprehensive assessment in some or all of the following areas:

Finally, periods of diagnostic testing should reveal a child’s rate and style of learning and insight into beneficial forms of instruction by providing valuable data on his or her performance over time and across contexts.



5.2           Assessment of attention, listening and speaking skills


Testing someone's ability to pay attention is more complicated than it sounds. Attention is composed of four major components:
1. selective attention: the ability to attend to stimuli while ignoring distractions;
2. sustained attention: the ability to maintain attention over an extended period of time;
3. divided attention: the ability to attend to more than one task simultaneously; and,

4. alternating attention: the ability to shift attention from one task to another without losing focus.

Measuring each facet of attention can be extremely helpful in pinpointing relative strengths and weaknesses. Tests can also indicate methods for dealing with the identified attention problem. 

The benefits of accurately identifying areas of need in relation to attention, concentration and hyperactivity can be seen in multiple areas of an individual’s life. Benefits include:

·      Increased self-confidence

·      Reduced anxiety

·      Greater progress within education

·      Targeted support strategies

Benefits can be seen through a comprehensive understanding of needs in addition to adaptations to the learning environment.

Even though many students have mastered basic listening and speaking skills, some students are much more effective in their oral communication than others. And those who are more effective communicators experience more success in school and in other areas of their lives. The skills that can make the difference between minimal and effective communication can be taught, practiced, and improved.

Two methods are used for assessing speaking skills. In the observational approach, the student's behavior is observed and assessed unobtrusively. In the structured approach, the student is asked to perform one or more specific oral communication tasks. His or her performance on the task is then evaluated. The task can be administered in a one-on-one setting -- with the test administrator and one student -- or in a group or class setting. In either setting, students should feel that they are communicating meaningful content to a real audience. Tasks should focus on topics that all students can easily talk about, or, if they do not include such a focus, students should be given an opportunity to collect information on the topic.

Both observational and structured approaches use a variety of rating systems. A holistic rating captures a general impression of the student's performance. A primary trait score assesses the student's ability to achieve a specific communication purpose -- for example, to persuade the listener to adopt a certain point of view. Analytic scales capture the student's performance on various aspects of communication, such as delivery, organization, content, and language. Rating systems may describe varying degrees of competence along a scale or may indicate the presence or absence of a characteristic.

A major aspect of any rating system is rater objectivity: Is the rater applying the scoring criteria accurately and consistently to all students across time? The reliability of raters should be established during their training and checked during administration or scoring of the assessment. If ratings are made on the spot, two raters will be required for some administrations. If ratings are recorded for later scoring, double scoring will be needed.

Listening tests typically resemble reading comprehension tests except that the student listens to a passage instead of reading it. The student then answers mulitiple-choice questions that address various levels of literal and inferential comprehension. Important elements in all listening tests are (1) the listening stimuli, (2) the questions, and (3) the test environment.

The listening stimuli should represent typical oral language, and not consist of simply the oral reading of passages designed to be written material. The material should model the language that students might typically be expected to hear in the classroom, in various media, or in conversations. Since listening performance is strongly influenced by motivation and memory, the passages should be interesting and relatively short. To ensure fairness, topics should be grounded in experience common to all students, irrespective of sex and geographic, socioeconomic, or racial/ethnic background.

In regard to questions, multiple-choice items should focus on the most important aspects of the passage -- not trivial details -- and should measure skills from a particular domain. Answers designated as correct should be derived from the passage, without reliance on the student's prior knowledge or experience. Questions and response choices should meet accepted psychometric standards for multiple-choice questions.

An alternative to the multiple-choice test is a performance test that requires students to select a picture or actually perform a task based on oral instruction. For example, students might hear a description of several geometric figures and choose pictures that match the description, or they might be given a map and instructed to trace a route that is described orally.

The testing environment for listening assessment should be free of external distractions. If stimuli are presented from a tape, the sound quality should be excellent. If stimuli are presented by a test administrator, the material should be presented clearly, with appropriate volume and rate of speaking

The abilities to listen critically and to express oneself clearly and effectively contribute to a student's success in school and later in life. Teachers concerned with developing the speaking and listening communication skills of their students need methods for assessing their students' progress. These techniques range from observation and questioning to standardized testing. However, even the most informal methods should embrace the measurement principles of reliability, validity, and fairness. The methods used should be appropriate to the purpose of the assessment and make use of the best instruments and procedures available.



5.3           Assessment of reading and writing skills


Reading skills are those necessary to read text, process the information and gather meaning. Reading is truly essential for all other subject areas. Imagine you are an 8th-grade science teacher. What would you do if your students could not read the textbook? Or could read, but got no meaning from it? Reading is a skill that is universally used not only in all subject areas, but nearly all workplaces.

Since reading is a very internal skill to develop, assessing it can be tricky. The overall purpose of assessing for reading skills is to verify students are learning how to personalize and interpret a variety of texts. Let's use a sample learning standard, or objective, to discuss ideas for assessing reading skills.

This standard focuses on theme, which is the moral or message of the story. You can assess for theme using a number of ways, including observation, group work, creative writing and many more. You might follow these steps:

1.     Spend some instructional time defining theme and finding examples in literature.

2.     Assess each student, which could include a theme scavenger hunt. Give students different themes to hunt for, like everlasting love or coping with loss.

3.     Students must search the textbook, or other anthologies, to find other pieces of literature that share that theme.

This type of assessment could be modified for any number of reading objectives and standards. Basically, your assessments need to show that each student is processing and gaining meaning from various texts.


The second major area of language arts is writing, which include skills needed to express ideas using the written word. These include grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence structure. Like reading, writing is also essential across curriculums and in the workplace. Assessments for writing should center on students producing quality writing samples. Here is a sample writing standard:

From this objective, you can do a variety of activities to assess your students. Let's say your students have learned the basics of simple and complex sentences. Now you have to assess whether your students can use both types in their own writing. One activity could be an analysis of a famous speech. Have students identify the simple and complex sentences and explain why the author used them. You can use observation or group work to assess this step. Furthermore, after the analysis, have students write their own speeches on a different topic but mimicking the structure of the original speech. This will allow you to assess if students can use simple and complex sentences in their own writing. All assessments you create should involve students using a specific writing concept in their own writing.

A teacher's first responsibility is to provide opportunities for writing and encouragement for students who attempt to write. A teacher's second responsibility is to promote students' success in writing. The teacher does this by carefully monitoring students' writing to assess strengths and weaknesses, teaching specific skills and strategies in response to student needs, and giving careful feedback that will reinforce newly learned skills and correct recurring problems. These responsibilities reveal, upon inspection, that assessment is clearly an integral part of good instruction. In their review of the existing research on effective instruction Christenson, Ysseldyke, and Thurlow (1989) found that, in addition to other factors, the following conditions were positively correlated to pupil achievement:

Assessment, therefore, is an essential component of effective instruction. Airasian (1996) identified three types of classroom assessments. The first he called "sizing-up" assessments, usually done during the first week of school to provide the teacher with quick information about the students when beginning their instruction. The second type, instructional assessments, are used for the daily tasks of planning instruction, giving feedback, and monitoring student progress. The third type he referred to as official assessments, which are the periodic formal functions of assessment for grouping, grading, and reporting. In other words, teachers use assessment for identifying strengths and weaknesses, planning instruction to fit diagnosed needs, evaluating instructional activities, giving feedback, monitoring performance, and reporting progress. Simple curriculum-based methods for assessing written expression can meet all these purposes.



5.4           Assessment of math skills computation and application


Computational skills are the selection and application of arithmetic operations to calculate solutions to mathematical problems.

Arithmetic encompasses a set of mathematic processes that include number sense, the understanding of mathematic principles such as the associative and commutative properties, and computational skills. Specifically, computational skills are defined as the abilities to calculate basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems quickly and accurately using mental methods, paper-and-pencil, and other tools, such as a calculator. This requires the selection of the appropriate arithmetic operation. Also, computational skills require the execution of the steps to calculate the solution.

Assessing Mathematical Understanding is a set of mathematics assessments for kindergarten and first-grade students that provides both cumulative data about students’ progress over time and in-depth diagnostic information. Aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, it is intended as a tool to help teachers track student progress, identify particular difficulties, and generally inform instructional planning.

Goals of Assessing Mathematical Understanding

·       To enhance teachers’ ability to meet individual student needs

·       To facilitate teacher collaboration around student learning

·       To promote student learning in mathematics


·       Individual assessment interviews are conducted by the teacher or another qualified staff member two to three times during the school year. The student record provides a cumulative report of mathematical progress during that period.

·       The one-on-one interview structure allows the teacher to collect rich data about student knowledge that is not limited to the answer the student gives, but also includes observations of the strategies and explanations the student uses.

·       The diagnostic assessment allows the teacher to ascertain an individual student’s strengths, weaknesses, knowledge, and skills in a particular concept area.

·       The content of each grade-level assessment is aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.

Using assessment tools and techniques that show student thinking requires:

School based assessment may also contribute to building a clear picture of the learner. Examples of assessment in mathematics and numeracy include:



5.5           Assessment using various tools (e.g., First Screen, Behaviour Checklist for Screening students with SLD (BCSLD), Grade Level Assessment Device for Children with Learning Problems in Schools (GLAD), Diagnostic Test of Reading Disorders (DTRD), Diagnostic Test of Learning Disability (DTLD). Documentation of assessment, interpretation and report writing, DALI)


First Screen

A first of its kind screening app for Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) - ‘First Screen’ has been developed by an city based NGO. The foundation provides remedial intervention to children with special education needs, especially those with Specific Learning Disabilities in India and operates in the Chandigarh, Haryana & Punjab regions as well.
Founder of Orkids Foundation, Dr. Geet Oberoi said, “The app aims at early identification of children who may be at the risk of developing SLD (Specific learning disabilities). It also allows for early intervention well before the formal age of diagnosis at 8years. It’s a free android app, available in both languages, Hindi and English.” ‘First Screen’ app covers nine major domains; reading & spelling, written expression, oral language, motor skills, attention, social skills, mathematics, executive functions, and memory. The app includes a test of 90 scoring items with 3-point answers; yes, maybe, no/NA.
It takes 20-25 minutes to complete the test after which visual feedback (as opposed to text) is given with possible recommendations for the future. And for accuracy purposes, the test must be filled by a parent or a teacher who has known the child for at least 6 months.

Dr. Geet Oberoi underlined, “The Guidelines for Assessment of various Disabilities under the ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ Act 2016, notification ‘Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’ (MSJE) mentions a screening test for children to be used at 8 years, class 3 to aid identification of children with SLD. However, no such screening test app is available so far. And this lacuna could be addressed by 'First Screen' app.”

Dr. Geet Oberoi underlined that since 2016, SLD has been included in the ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (RPwD Act) hence making all provisions for the children/individuals equally accessible by them as well. Specific learning disorder (SLD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders affecting 3% to10% of children.
Additionally, the level of awareness and professional training in SLD and related areas is almost negligible, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 cities. The guidelines have given for ‘Children With Special Needs (CWSN) in the RPWD Act 2016 state that no child can be diagnosed before the age of 8.
Dr. Geet highlighted, “Since the ideal age for kids to enter school is 3 years, this is an opportunity that gives a buffer to the kids to adjust and come up to the required milestones in learning. However, the lack of timely intervention in the case of the kids who may be at a risk puts them on the losing end because their issues are not identified in these 5 years. By the time they turn 8, they face a learning gap as compared to their peers.”
She concludes, “Therefore, a screening tool which is not diagnostic and thus does not label, but only screens to identify kids that maybe 'at risk' is the need of the hour. 'First Screen' would ensure that these valuable 5 years can be utilized by providing extra support in terms of training and providing resources to the kids to help their learning curve.”

Behaviour Checklist for Screening students with SLD (BCSLD)

It is a screening tool which advocates use of other diagnostic tools for the assessment and determination of learning disability in the child. The checklists consist of 30 items, positive and negative, to be filled in by the teacher. It covers eight areas, each representing a deficit in a particular ability, and gives us insight into the mental make-up, attempting to explain the reason for the child's under-achievement. It has been standardized on 1000 children from ages 8-11 years. 300 teachers also constituted the sample.

Grade Level Assessment Device for Children with Learning Problems in Schools (GLAD)

Grade Level Assessment Device for Children with learning problems in schools (GLAD) -This device was developed by Jayanthi Narayan (1997) of NIMH, Secunderabad to assess the learning problems of primary school children. The device had taken into account the standard curricular content of class 1 to IVth in India and items were selected from the existing curriculum. The co-efficient of 0.99 and 0.68 for IIIrd & IVth classes respectively indicates that the test is highly reliable. Criterion validity of the test was established by taking a sample of 10 children who have been taken 65 from the class and tested with the content one class lower. For each class from 1 to IV in each subject area the exercise was carried out. The correlations of the scores obtained for class IIIrd and IVth are 0.76 and 0.74 respectively indicates that the test is valid for respective classes.

Grade level Assessment Device (GLAD) is used for find out processing problem in children with learning problems in regular school who, many a time are suspected as mentally retarded. All the educational assessment tools described above are popularly used criterion referenced tools and have provision for programming and progress monitoring. In some schools, similar tests are developed by themselves and used to suit their needs. The point to keep in mind is that such tests should lead towards assessment of educational needs and provide link to training and formative evaluation. The teacher must be well trained and competent to use the tests.


Diagnostic Test of Reading Disorders (DTRD)

Perceptual and cognitive deficits, assumed to be the underlying causes for the reading, writing problems, in the learning disabled provided the base for the development of the Diagnostic Test of Reading Disorders. The test identifies and diagnoses the process deficits that cause disorders in both fluency and accuracy of reading. It is an individually administered instrument. Each child has to be administered both Level I and Level II tests. It was standardized on a sample of 1100 school going boys and girls in the age range of 8-11 years. It is a non-timed test.

Diagnostic Test of Learning Disability (DTLD)

The authors of DTLD are Smriti Swaroop and Dharmishta Mehta. The test diagnoses learning disability in ten areas-from Auditory/Visual Perception to Cognitive areas. It consists of 10 sub-tests. It is to be individually administered on the age group 8-11 years old. A deficit in any of the area or areas or a combination of any, would lead to a learning problem. Eye-hand Co-ordination, Figure Ground Perception, Figure Constancy, Position-in-Space, Spatial Relations, Auditory Perception, Memory, Cognitive Abilities, Receptive Language, Expressive Language. It is the test to diagnose learning difficulty and other areas like language, spatial relations, eye hand co-ordination etc. This test ranges from age 6 to 14 years.

Dyslexia Assessment for Languages of India) (DALI)

DALI is an assessment tool created by National Brain Research Centre, India in South Asian languages.

Most tools for screening dyslexic children are available in English. As we have already seen, that can be quite problematic and culturally inappropriate. 

DALI is an assessment tool created by National Brain Research Centre, India in South Asian languages.

It contains tools for school teachers and assessment tools for psychologists in Indian Languages to identify dyslexia. For the first time, India will have indigenously developed screening and assessment tools that have been standardized and validated across a large population of nearly 4840 children. 

The tools are available in Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and English and development in other languages is in process. DALI contains two screening tools for dyslexia (for school teachers), namely the JST (Junior Screening Tool) for classes (1-2) and the MST (Middle Screening Tool) for classes (3-5) in four languages, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and English. It also contains eight standardized and validated assessment Batteries to be used by psychologists. It is further being made available in 4 more South Asian languages. 

DALI is the first screening and assessment tool for dyslexia in regional Indian languages. DALI is developed at National Brain Research Centre and this study was supported by Department of Science and Technology.

Nearly 1 in 6 children has reading problems. Dyslexia is a hidden learning disability wherein children fail to achieve reading skills in regular classroom settings. Dyslexia has a biological basis and occurs because of differences in brain wiring.

Children in India receive education at school in at least 2 languages. It is necessary that the assessment of dyslexia be carried in all languages that the child is exposed to. India, the diagnosis of dyslexia has been incomplete because of the absence of standardized, validated assessment tools in regional Indian languages.

DALI (Dyslexia Assessment for Languages of India) contains screening tools for school teachers and assessment tools for psychologists to identify dyslexia. The tools are currently available in four languages as detailed below. Extension to other languages is in process.

The tool screens the children from classes 1 to 5 (five to 10 years) in six categories. These are reading, writing, math, communication, memory, and motor coordination. Research shows that children should be screened in all the languages in which they are taught, so the tool has to be administered by a Language teacher and the Class teacher.

There is a detailed evaluation that follows once a child is screened positively, says Dr Singh. “The parents are told to follow this up with a regular eye and hearing check-up to ensure there are no sensory issues.”

This is followed by a formal assessment, based on the outcome of which an Individualised Intervention Plan is worked out for the child. A special educator is then assigned to help the child bridge the learning gaps, and the specific needs of the child are highlighted in the report. The school is expected to provide for these accommodations.

DALI was used among 30,000 children studying in Delhi government schools and received positive feedback “especially with teachers who were unable to understand some of the underachievers,”, says Dr Oberoi. “Early intervention is facilitated and with timely inputs the chances of mainstreaming the children in question have increased considerably.”

By launching the app in a range of regional languages, the aim is to enable more people to access it. A welcome move say special educators.

“A regional language screening app makes a difference”, says Joyeeta DuttaSenior Special Educator and Program Manager-School Outreach with the Ummeed Child Development Centre in Mumbai.

“A lot of children are more comfortable with their native tongue. There are many first generation learners learning English and it becomes hard to gauge their levels. An assessment tool in the native language will help intervene early. LD occurs across all languages and if a child is struggling in a certain language it gives you an option of testing in the language spoken at home”.

To ensure all children are empowered, DALI has to be taken to schools across India, points out Dr Oberoi. “Screening of children in ALL schools needs to become mandatory. Leaving it up to the school authorities more often than not does not result in much.”


Documentation of assessment, interpretation and report writing

An assessment plan's value to the department lies in the evidence it offers about overall department or program strengths and weaknesses, and in the evidence it provides for change (Wright, 1991). The key factors in achieving real value from all of your work is to make the most out of the information you have collected by using effective analysis and interpretation practices.

The Best Ways to Analyze and Interpret Assessment Information

·       Present the data in relation to the program’s identified goals and objectives

·       Use qualitative and quantitative methods to present a well-balanced picture of the assessment goals and driving questions

·       Vary your analysis and reporting procedures according to identified audiences (accreditors, campus report etc)

·       Develop recommendations based on the analysis of data and using identified goals as a framework within which to accomplish suggested changes

Consider the extent to which your findings can help you answer the following questions:

·       What does the data say about students' mastery of subject matter, research skills, or writing?

·       What does it say about meeting benchmark expectations?

·       What does the data say about your students' preparation for taking the next step in their careers?

·       Are graduates of your program getting good jobs, accepted into reputable graduate schools?

·       Are there areas where your students are outstanding?

·       Do you see weakness in any particular skills, such as research or critical thinking skills?

These are compelling questions for faculty, administrators, students, and external audiences alike. If your assessment information can shed light on these issues, the value of your efforts will become all the more apparent.

Remember that data can often be misleading, and even threatening, when used for purposes other than originally intended and agreed upon. For example, data collected from the assessment of student performance in a capstone course should be used to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses in student learning “across the students' entire experience in the major”. In this way, the data can guide curricular modifications and departmental pedagogical strategies. The data should NOT be used to evaluate the performance of the capstone course instructor.

Preparing Effective Assessment Plans & Reports

At its most basic, your report should have enough information to answer five basic questions:

·       What did you do?

·       Why did you do it?

·       What did you find?

·       How will you use it?

·       What is your evaluation of the assessment itself?

Format of the Assessment Plans and Reports

A comprehensive program assessment plan and report could be as simple as a presentation to departments on the major results or it could be a detailed report to the Provost on assessing learning outcomes in the program. The reality is that a program rarely has only one purpose for engaging in assessment. Therefore, you may want to develop reports that are tailored specifically to the audiences you need to address.

Formal Reports

If you have decided to prepare a formal assessment report, your report should address each of the identified audiences and might contain some or all of the following:

·       A brief description of why the assessment activity was undertaken

·       A brief description of the major, goals, objectives and intended learning outcomes

·       An explanation of how the analysis was done and what methodology was used

·       A presentation of major findings

·       A discussion of how results are being used for program improvement

·       An evaluation of the assessment plan/process itself

·       An outline of next steps (programmatic, curricular, and assessment-related)

·       An appendix containing a curriculum analysis matrix, relevant assignments and outcomes, data collection methods, and other information or materials as appropriate

Assessment reports do not necessarily have to be pages and pages of text and graphs to be effective. You may choose to prepare a report that briefly and succinctly outlines your assessment program results. By highlighting the main points and significant results, you can convey in a concise manner what you were trying to accomplish, what you did and did not accomplish, and what changes you will implement as a result.