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Chapter 10: Informal Assessment. Observation Rating Scales Classification Methods Records and Personal Documents. Defining Informal Assessment. I nformal assessment techniques are subjective, mostly “homegrown;” Reliability, validity, and cross-cultural issues often lacking.

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Chapter 10: Informal Assessment

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Chapter 10: Informal Assessment


Rating Scales

Classification Methods

Records and Personal Documents

Defining Informal Assessment

  • Informal assessment techniques are subjective, mostly “homegrown;”

  • Reliability, validity, and cross-cultural issues often lacking.

  • However, informal techniques can do the following:

    • Add one more piece of info to total assessment process.

    • Can be purposeful focused to gather specific information.

    • Can often be used to gather info quickly.

    • Can be non-intrusive, such as using cumulative records at school, and thus can be nonthreatening.

    • Usually free or low cost.

    • Tend to be easy to administer and interpret.

Types of Informal Assessment: Observation

  • Completed by professionals (e.g., school counselors), significant others (e.g., spouses), or by self.

  • Two Types and Combination of Two Types:

    • Event sampling: Viewing and assessing targeted behavior without regard for time (observing acting out child at school ALL day).

    • Time sampling: Specific amount of time set aside for observation (e.g., viewing acting out child for 10 minutes, 5 times during the day)

    • Combining event and time sampling: E.g.: Instructor randomly observes empathic responses from 3, 5-minute segments of clinical interviews from each of a dozen students who handed in one-hour videotapes.

Types of Informal Assessment: Rating Scales (Cont’d)

  • A rating scale is used to assess a quantity of an attribute being presented to the rater.

  • Rating scales are subjective and the assessment is based on the rater’s “inner judgment” of the rater.

  • Two types of error often associated with ratings scales:

    • The Halo Effect: Rate based on overall impression (e.g., intern is exceptional, so you rate examinee high on all aspects, even though examinee consistently comes in late).

    • Generosity Error: Identification with person affects your rating (e.g., you rate fellow student on his or her ability at exhibiting good counseling skills).

Types of Informal Assessment: Rating Scales (Cont’d)

  • Types of Rating Scales (pp. 199-200):

    • Numerical Scales: Provide a written statement that can be rated from high to low on a number line .

    • Graphic Type Scales (Likert-Type Scales): Statement followed by words that reflect a continuum from favorable to unfavorable.

    • Semantic Differential Scale: Statement followed by pairs of words that reflect opposing traits.

    • Rank Order Scales: Series of statements which respondent can rank order based on preferences.

Types of Informal Assessment: Classification Systems

  • Provide information about whether or not an individual has, or does not have, certain attributes or characteristics.

  • Three common classification inventories:

    • behavior and feeling word checklists,

    • sociometric instruments, and

    • situational tests.

Types of Informal Assessment: Classification Systems (Cont’d)

  • Types of Classification Systems:

    • Behavior and Feeling Word Checklists: Individual identifies words best describing his or her feelings or behaviors (see Box 10.2 and Box 10.3, pp. 202-203).

    • Sociometric Instruments:Maps relative position of individual within a group. Often used to determine the dynamics of individuals within a group (see Figure 10.1, p. 205).

    • Situational Tests:Real-to-life situations to examine how individual is likely to respond in a contrived, but natural situation (e.g., role-playing a counselor as part of admissions process for a doctoral program).

Types of Informal Assessment: Records and Personal Documents

  • Can help examiner understand the beliefs, values, and behaviors of person being assessed.

  • Often obtained directly from client, from individuals close to client (e.g., parents, loved ones), and from institution with which the client has interacted.

  • More common records and personal documents:

    • biographical inventories (see pp. 204-206),

    • cumulative records,

    • anecdotal information,

    • autobiographies,

    • journals and diaries, and

    • genograms. (see Figures 10.2 and 10.3, p. 209).

Test Worthiness of Informal Assessment: Validity

  • Validity: How well examiner defines that which is being assessed (e.g., acting out behavior of a child—need to define the behavior identified as “acting out.”

    • Which “acting out” behaviors are we talking about? Does it include pushing, interrupting, making inappropriate nonverbal gestures, withdrawing in class, and so forth?

    • Does it only include inappropriate behaviors in the classroom. What about in the hallway, on the playground, on field trips, and at home (etc.)?

  • (see Exercise 10.5, p. 210).

Test Worthiness of Informal Assessment: Reliability

  • Intimate relationship between validity and reliability.

  • The better we define the behavior (the more valid), the more reliable is our data.

  • Interrater Reliability: Ideally, two raters who understand the behavior assess separately. Then, a correlation coefficient is obtained (hopefully .80 or higher)

  • E.g., Have student respond empathically to a taped client. Two highly trained raters, rate their responses from low to high on a scale. Ratings should be similar (high interrater reliabilty).

  • In reality, this rarely occurs due to time and cost.

Test Worthiness of Informal Assessment: Cross-cultural Fairness

  • Informal assessment procedures vulnerable to bias:

    • Unconscious or conscious bias can lead assessor to misinterpret verbal or nonverbal behaviors.

    • Assessor may be ignorant about the verbal or nonverbal behaviors of a particular minority group.

  • However, because uniquely geared towards the specific client behaviors, one can choose exactly which behaviors to focus upon.

  • This can have the benefit of adding sharpened focus to the understanding of the individual.

Test Worthiness of Informal Assessment: Practicality

  • The practical nature of informal assessments makes them particularly useful:

    • low-cost or cost-free,

    • can be created or obtained in a short amount of time,

    • are relatively easy to administer, and

    • with the exception of possible cultural bias, are fairly easy to interpret.

Final Thoughts on Informal Assessment

  • Informal assessment techniques sometimes have questionable reliability, validity, and may not always be cross-culturally fair

  • They can add one additional mechanism for understanding the person.

  • When making important decisions about a person, they should generally not be used alone but can be an important addition to a broader assessment battery.

  • Use them wisely and keep in mind the importance that they add to the decisions one is making about a client.

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