Cognitive Processes

Imagine you are a clinician assigned to complete a psychological evaluation of a depressed and anxious individual, including IQ testing. Focusing on the assessment of your client’s general mental ability, discuss the following:
How would understanding your client’s cognitive abilities help you understand the psychological issues that he or she is facing?
How might your client’s cognitive or emotional state affect the outcome of testing?
Formulate a plan for minimizing the impact of emotions and other psychological states on the results of psychological tests. Use the readings from the unit to analyze the pros, cons, strengths, and limitations of the measurement of general mental ability.
Psychoeducational Assessment
In this unit we continue our discussion of testing in education, evaluating many of the group tests used in schools, colleges, and graduate and professional schools. As we noted in the preceding unit, ability tests used in educational settings may be administered to one person at a time or to many subjects at the same time. Your Psychological Testing: Principles, Applications, and Issues text provides a comparison of group and individual ability tests, discusses the unique advantages of each type and offers valuable suggestions regarding their use with diverse populations. Types of decisions that may be made with the help of standardized achievement tests in kindergarten through 12th grade include:
Placement decisions that call for a broad appraisal in a given area. Standardized tests of achievement can help identify entry level performance on a uniform score level.
Counseling and guidance decisions that call for normative comparisons that standardized tests make possible.
Selection decisions that tend to imply comparison with others. Note that for these comparisons, relevant norms are often important.
Curricular decisions between alternative programs that imply a broadly based comparison in which standardized measures may be used along with measures locally designed for special objectives.
Public policy decisions that call for a comprehensive and comparative view of how well an institution or a program is doing.
Note that for the types of decisions listed above, you would use standardized achievement tests and not aptitude tests. Why? Achievement tests provide a measure of a student’s knowledge after a standard course of training. On the other hand, aptitude tests attempt to evaluate a student’s potential for learning, rather than how much he or she has already learned. While for achievement tests, validity is determined primarily by content-related evidence, the validity for an aptitude test is judged primarily on its ability to predict future performance. Thus aptitude tests rely heavily on criterion-related evidence for validity.
In addition to achievement tests for kindergarten through 12th grade, you will also learn about group tests of mental abilities. This discussion will be followed by a review of college entrance tests (such as the ACT and SAT), graduate school entrance tests (such as the GRE and Miller Analogies), and the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). In examining the discussion of these entrance examinations, devote attention to their content, the types of items, and the psychometric properties. This knowledge is important in understanding reports of a given individual and also to provide consultation in making admission decision at an institutional or program level.
Note that although a school with a surplus of applicants will scrutinize closely an applicant with poor test scores, admission committees look beyond ability, seeking a good mix of applicant interests and backgrounds. Automatically accepting those above a certain predicted grade average and rejecting those below it turns away applicants with adequate promise who are outstanding along other lines. Research indicates that records of past accomplishments in musical, scientific, literary, and leadership activities correlate negligibly with grade record or with test scores, but they do correlate with subsequent accomplishments in the same fields. It is, therefore, important to consider using multiple measures or data sources in making decisions in educational settings.
As you know from your experience, discussions regarding the usefulness of intelligence tests or college entrance examinations often raise questions. Are the tests biased? Are they fair to individuals with disabilities or to those from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds? You therefore need to learn about (a) how a test can be biased and how that differs from being unfair and (b), what can be done to reduce bias and make the test as fair as possible. Since this topic represents an area of great social and scientific significance both your course text and the Standards have devoted entire chapters to this discussion. We have included them in the reading assigned for this unit. As you read the chapters, please note that both test bias and test fairness stand as independent and important issues, but they are closely related as well. Tests need to be unbiased in that they validly assess the expected outcome, but they have to be fair as well in their use, and the interpretation of their results should further society’s goals.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
Compare group and individual ability tests.
Outline the major purposes served by educational tests.
Explain how published achievement tests differ from those developed locally by a teacher or a group of teachers.
Published or Locally-Produced Tests?
For what type of educational decisions would you use a published test? In what types of situations might you choose a locally-produced test over a published test? Why?
Relating Standards to Tests
Imagine you are employed as a consulting psychologist by a new school system. They need your help with choosing a battery of tests to assess the aptitudes, learning abilities, and academic levels of individual students. Discuss how the standards presented in Chapter 13 of the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing pertain to your choices of psychoeducational assessments.