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1. 1 Chapter 10: Informal Assessment Observation
Records and Personal Documents
2. 2 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.
3. 3 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.
4. 4 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).
5. 5 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.
6. 6 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
7. 7 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).
8. 8 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),
journals and diaries, and
genograms. (see Figures 10.2 and 10.3, p. 209).
9. 9 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).
10. 10 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.
11. 11 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.
12. 12 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.
13. 13 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.