The Move to Application Based Assessment

As School Psychologists we have front row seats to watching technology shape the future of learning, but how is this change impacting our scope of practice?  

For students, several districts in the area employ the use of tablets for learning, and some have made the transition to technology so vast that they provide a tablet for each child. For School Psychologists, we have slowly moved away from hand scoring to computer based scoring, and even to online rating scales. Who wants to spend an hour half hand scoring a 150 question rating scale when you can spend 15 seconds running a full online report? There is no doubt that technology has the capacity to increase the efficiency of our jobs, but there is a big difference between using online behavior rating scales and creating a full shift to application-based testing.  

There has been a lot of buzz lately about our assessment tools becoming available through an application called Q-interactive. Pearson assessments created Q-Interactive with the promise to eliminate the need for chunky test kits. As someone who welcomes technology with open arms, I immediately researched the program, attended a training, and began using it. It was promptly apparent that while Pearson still has some work to do, there is potential for an abundance of benefits to evaluators. The two leading issues I encountered with the actual use of Q-Interactive were simple technical glitches  (as with any technology, sometimes it just doesn't work and you can’t figure out why), and the time commitment it takes to learn.

Although I knew and understood that administering subtests on the iPad would be different, I still had this senseless expectation that it would remain somewhat automatic and effortless. When I attempted to administer a subtest on the iPad for the first time, one that I have given countless times the traditional way, I found it to be uncomfortable and confusing. I was relearning HOW to administer assessments and essentially attempting to break old habits to learn new ones, which is not what I expected. Just as with learning anything new, after practice it does start to come with ease. However, the obstacle Pearson is faced with is whether or not assessors are able and/or are willing to take the time to relearn the way they administer tests.

The Trainers of School Psychologists – New York (TSP-NY) recently released an open letter to Pearson Assessments indicating 4 major concerns associated with the use of Q-Interactive: 1) Cost prohibitive for graduate programs and students, 2) Cost prohibitive for practitioners and school districts, 3) Confidentiality of assessment data, and 4) Limited research to support validity and reliability of assessments administered using Q-Interactive. The last two points are consistent concerns indicated by users of this assessment trend. However, I don’t necessarily agree with the concerns regarding cost, as the cost effectiveness of the program is highly situational at this point. Many districts already provide iPads to their students and employees, many practitioners already utilize application-based technology for their business, and everyone else will eventually move toward technology, as its future in education is inevitable. With the high cost of traditional test kits, many districts could save money purchasing the yearly license for Q-Interactive and paying per subtest use, as an alternative to ordering several test kits and paper protocols. They also offer graduate student access options for school psychologist training programs.

Overall, I am impressed with the initial release of Q-Interactive, as the need to work out kinks should be expected. While the shift to application-based testing will be a gradual one, I anticipate traditional assessment tools to remain a key part of our evaluation process. There are benefits and downfalls to both traditional and application-based assessments. So, why not use both to your advantage? Based on my experience and use of Q-Interactive over the past several months, I created a quick pros and cons list for those contemplating the shift:

Pros: Has potential to be time effective; lessens need for big test kits/uses less space; using an iPad for assessments can be highly motivating for children; Can be cost effective long term in some situations; Charged per subtest rather than pay for entire protocol (great for cross-battery assessment); Once you purchase a full yearly license, it includes all future test kits added to Q-Interactive; Access to full manuals online.

Cons: Several questions about confidentiality of data; Currently there is limited research for assessments given on iPad; Is cost prohibitive short term; Can be cost prohibitive long term in some situations; Requires large time commitment to learn; Technical glitches; Currently only available on the iPad.


Ashley Smithey


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